Race to Innovate
Competitiveness, Manufacturing, and Trade Policy Analysis
“Abdominal pain comes first. After three days, the kidneys fail. After five days, neurological dysfunction leads to paralysis and breathing difficulties. Patients who survive will be dialysis-dependent for the rest of their lives. But in the end, most will die.” That’s from ITIF Trade Policy Analyst Michelle Wein’s gripping monograph, The Devil Wears Counterfeit Prada—And Sells Fake Glycerin: The True Cost of Global Trade in Illicit Goods, which leads by describing the mass poisoning of 100 Panamanian children in 2006 caused by Chinese exports of counterfeit glycerin that was really poisonous diethylene glycol. Unfortunately, that’s just one example: each year, approximately 1 million people around the world die from counterfeit drugs, which account for 30 percent of global drug sales. And that’s just the damage from one category of counterfeited products. It doesn’t even count the damage caused by counterfeit foods, pet medications, electronic products, or the over 1,800 cases of suspected counterfeit electronic parts recently found across a wide range of U.S. weapons systems, according to a 2012 Senate Armed Services Committee report. In fact, the total value of the global counterfeit goods trade now tallies $1.8 trillion… Read the rest
With Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank reauthorization once again before Congress—its current authorization expires on June 30, 2015—it’s a good moment to take stock of the critical role the Bank plays in ensuring the competitiveness of America’s traded sector companies and industries. As the official export credit agency of the United States, the Ex-Im Bank plays a fundamental role in ensuring the global competitiveness of U.S. exporters, as ITIF described in its 2014 report The Export-Import Bank’s Vital Role in Supporting U.S. Traded Sector Competitiveness. Specifically, the Ex-Im Bank fills two key roles. First, it provides financing—in the form of loans or loan guarantees—to foreign purchasers of American products and services for export transactions that might not otherwise occur when private commercial lenders are unable or unwilling to provide financing to foreign purchasers of U.S. exports. Second, the Bank levels the playing field for U.S. exporters by matching the credit support that other nations provide, ensuring that U.S. exporters are able to compete based upon the price and performance of their products.
Put simply, the Bank makes possible U.S. exports that otherwise would not occur without its assistance. In FY 2013, … Read the rest
It appears that the global club of those who do not adequately appreciate intellectual property (IP) has gotten a new member: Ecuador. In the past few years the IP environment inside that small South American nation has deteriorated quite significantly, especially with regard to the protection of pharmaceuticals and biologics. And as the situation continues to worsen, those of us around the world paying attention are probably all thinking the same thing: You’re ruining it for everyone else.
Indeed, Ecuador’s weakening life sciences IP situation is just one of a long line of countries doing so around the world, including Canada, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and South Africa. Ecuador’s decision to weaken its environment for life sciences IP risks perpetuating this global contagion effect. For example, since 2010 the nation’s main IP agency (responsible for ensuring IP rights, including enforcement and promotion) the Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Institute, has granted nine compulsory licenses (CLs) with 12 applications still pending. Six of those nine CLs were issued in 2014 alone, including one for Pfizer’s kidney and gastrointestinal cancer medication, Sutent. According to the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights … Read the rest
The U.S. corporate tax system hasn’t had a major overhaul since the early 1980s, and it’s getting long in the tooth. One part that is particularly dated is the research and experimentation (R&E) tax credit provision. The new 2016 administration budget makes some important changes to the R&E credit. The credit was first implemented as a two-year trial run over 30 years ago in 1981, and has been renewed continually since then, eventually adding an updated “alternative simplified credit” (ASC) as the old credit became too unwieldy in many instances. Despite proven success as shown in many academic studies, however, the credit is continually forced to be renewed. The new administration proposal takes the obvious step of making the credit permanent, eliminates the outdated “traditional” credit making a stronger ASC the sole form of the credit, and incentivizes R&D in universities startups by increasing the amount of the credit that companies can claim for outside R&D expenditure.
While the R&E credit has evolved over the past three decades, both its core structure and its temporary span have stayed the same. It is clearly out of date: the law still … Read the rest
A new SSRN paper finds that research and development (R&D) helps manufacturers keep ahead of competition from imports. U.S. manufacturing firms in industries with strong import competition from China fared better 50 percent better when they had larger stocks of capital used for R&D. While this finding is intuitive, it provides an important piece of evidence that reiterates a critical point about the U.S. economy: international competitiveness is extremely important and smart R&D policy (including tax credits) is a key method of maintaining it.
The authors Johan Hombert and Adrien Matray use granular industry-level data on imports from China and show that these imports have a significant impact on the performance of U.S. manufacturing firms. They then examine whether this impact changes depending on how much R&D capital firms have. In order to make sure the R&D capital isn’t related to other factors, they use state-level changes in R&D credit policy during the 1980s.
Their results here show that firms that had access to cheaper R&D and were thus more likely to acquire more R&D capital had an easier time “climbing the quality ladder” and staying competitive in the face … Read the rest
Today, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will address the 114th Congress regarding the necessity of passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as a predicate for completion of the ambitious U.S. trade agenda. TPA allows the President to “fast-track” trade agreements for approval or disapproval by Congress; essentially, TPA asks the House and Senate to accept or reject a trade agreement, without amendment, within 90 days of its submission to Congress by the President. The process enables the United States to negotiate more beneficial trade agreements with other countries, in part because of the reduction in approval time compared to other pieces of legislation (that often languish in committee markup) and because it incentivizes foreign countries to make good faith trade negotiations with the United States, since they know that Congress cannot rewrite the deal.
Presidents need fast-track negotiating authority because the simple reality is that finding consensus on trade agreements becomes nearly impossible if all 535 members of Congress get a chance to rewrite the terms of trade agreements American officials have spent painstaking years negotiating with multiple foreign partners. And as Representative Froman wrote in a recent Foreign Affairs… Read the rest
Boston Consulting Group and Qualcomm have just released a new report examining the impact of mobile devices on the economy, focusing on the benefits mobile brings to small businesses and consumers in six countries including the United States, Germany, Korea, Brazil, China and India. The authors estimate that mobile technologies increase consumer welfare by the equivalent of 10 percent of total income in developed countries, and 20-45 percent of total income in developing countries. In fact, the total value that mobile brings to consumers is estimated to be more than double the size of the of the entire mobile industry revenue.
These economic gains have been enabled by remarkable technological progress. Global average cost per megabyte has declined from nearly 98 percent between 2005 and 2013, while maximum data speed has increased from ~10 to 250 mbps over the same period. These vast changes in cost and performance have made mobile technology affordable to billions of people around the world. Even so, more technological progress is necessary: 90 percent of mobile technology users report having problems with their connection. 5G and 6G technologies will continue to improve access and connectivity … Read the rest
A new NBER paper, “Starving (or Fattening) the Golden Goose?: Generic Entry and the Incentives for Early -Stage Pharmaceutical Innovation” (summarized here), asks whether competition from generic drugs disincentivizes research. The authors, Branstetter, Chatterjee and Higgins, find that this does broadly seem to be the case: drug development activity decreases after generic drugs are introduced. This result highlights the important tradeoff between research and consumption. When consumers pay for drugs, intellectual property (IP) policies play a large role in determining how much of that cost goes toward future drug development.
Pharmaceutical markets are risky: drug development takes 12 years from initial pre-trial preparation to bringing a drug to market, and between the complexity of the human body and the extended regulatory approval process only a small proportion of drugs make it all the way to market. Of the ones that do, a small minority make up the large majority of profits.
This riskiness means that policies play a critical role in getting pharmaceutical markets to work correctly: if companies do not have incentives that outweigh the risks, they will not invest in researching new drugs and bringing them … Read the rest
Intellectual property rights (IPRs) attempt to balance static and dynamic efficiency. By allowing innovators to appropriate a greater share of the value generated from their ideas, IPRs can create incentives for investment in research and development (R&D). With regard to pharmaceuticals for developing countries, incentives for drug development are critical, since many diseases prevalent in developing countries lack appropriate treatments. However, those in the global health community often allege that prices of new innovative drugs under patent make them unaffordable to most people in developing countries because of the absence of generic competition.
Thus, understanding the effects of IPRs on access and affordability are important for researchers, policymakers, and firms. In December 2014, Margaret Kyle and Yi Qian published a new paper investigating this with the National Bureau of Economic Research. Titled Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Innovation: Evidence from TRIPS, the authors examine the effect of pharmaceutical patent protection on the speed of drug launch, price, and quantity in 60 countries from 2000-2013.
The paper begins by noting that though the introduction of IPRs is an endogenous decision taken by policy makers, developing countries were required by … Read the rest
Evidence of the shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent in the United States is plentiful. However, in an effort to stop immigration of high-skilled STEM workers, left wing advocates argue that there is no shortage. A new twist to their argument is to claim that STEM graduates do not always go into STEM fields and therefore are not in short supply. This reasoning falls apart rapidly. First, the U.S. Census Bureau definition of STEM graduates and workers, which is used to make this argument, includes psychology and social science majors, which are not what most people think of when considering STEM occupations. But second, it ignores the glaringly obvious point that in today’s technology-driven economy, all sectors and industries-not just those classified as STEM fields-have a growing need for STEM talent.
To further this flawed argument, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has recently launched a new website ostensibly designed to increase transparency into the H-1b and other visa programs, but in function serves to argue that the jobs that are being filled by guest-workers are jobs that American’s would otherwise fill. Unfortunately, the reasoning behind their … Read the rest