Puerto Rico official ‘not surprised’ Trump adviser says pharma could ‘flourish’ on island again
Economic Development secretary: ‘We have been working on this for a while now’ but mechanisms for companies’ return ‘must have bipartisan endorsement’
SAN JUAN – The secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish initials), Manuel Laboy Rivera, said Friday that the important thing now is to establish the mechanism and incentives for pharmaceutical companies to return to Puerto Rico, after the White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, Peter Navarro, spoke of the possibility.
In an interview Thursday with the Washington Examiner, Navarro said Puerto Rico could again be a “major contributor” to the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain.
“If you think about how the Puerto Rican economy is organized, there’s over 100 business parks around the island where such facilities could flourish,” Navarro said. “That’s something that Capitol Hill could help facilitate with some attention in the next phase. Puerto Rico once had a thriving pharmaceutical industry, but Congress all but put an end to that.”
Navarro added: “If this crisis has taught us anything across party lines is that we do indeed need to bring home the pharmaceutical supply chain, that it is not just a public health issue, but a national security issue and an economic security issue.”
“They are very important remarks, especially from the person who makes them, who is Mr. Peter Navarro, who is one of the main advisers to the president of the United States, Donald Trump, in matters of international trade, energy, industry and manufacturing. He is one of the people who has been leading under the Trump term since the beginning of 2017, the matter of bringing manufacturing back to American soil. This has been going on since the [presidential] term began,” Laboy Rivera said in a radio interview (NotiUno).
The official assured that he has kept in communication with Navarro and that they met in late 2017 after hurricanes Irma and María. He assured that in March there was work done with the resident commissioner, Jenniffer González, and Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown, the White House Special Representative for Puerto Rico’s Disaster Recover.
“Yes. We have maintained contact with Mr. Navarro. The expressions did not surprise me, precisely because we have been working on this for a while now,” he said.
“About the objective, I believe that we all agree regardless of the political vision that a person may have. We agree with the objective that Puerto Rico is the best place under the American flag to get that activity back under American territory and that Puerto Rico be the leader because we have every reason to excel,” he added.
Regarding what type of incentive would be considered, Laboy Rivera said that several members of Congress have already introduced measures in Congress, although these must have bipartisan endorsement.
“That is the debate we should be having. There are several alternatives to do this. The truth is that we must also consider what can be achieved. One thing is what we would like and another is what can be achieved. They have to be measures that have bipartisan support, both from Democrats and Republicans, and that have the opportunity to become law this year,” the secretary said.
He noted that Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced recently announced, along with the resident commissioner, the introduction of a bill on tax credits for economically disadvantaged or depressed areas that would apply to any place in the United States and Puerto Rico that has a higher than 35 percent poverty rate .
“In that sense, we favor that bill, which is well thought out and that has bipartisan support,” the secretary said.
—Caribbean Business contributed.