On World Health Day, Keep Trade in Mind

Trade brings economic vitality, increased employment and a higher quality of goods and services with lower price tags. But an often overlooked benefit of free trade is the expansion of the global medical community and the ability to treat patients around the world. I can’t think of a better opportunity to explore some of the ways trade can improve the health and lives of patients around the globe than today, on World Health Day.

Remove Regulatory Barriers
In 2013, medicine accounted for nearly €300 billion of total global exports. This is a phenomenal level of exchange and cooperation, but there is always room for improvement when it comes to treating disease and saving lives. Current restrictions on international trade force limitations for many companies that develop and refine new medicines, creating a disservice to patients and researchers. Patients can’t get the medicines they need and researchers can’t see their years of hard work come to fruition.

If more countries agree to recognize each other’s standards and regulations, they could share their discoveries faster and farther than ever before. If we reduce unnecessary duplication and pave the way for a high global standard, patients in Boston, Brussels, Birmingham and Beijing can more easily access the medicines they need.

Accelerate and Promote Discovery
This year’s theme for World Health Day is diabetes - a disease that affects men and women, young and old around the globe. Roughly 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, and that number could as much as double within the next two decades. We can mitigate this growth with policies and agreements that support the innovation needed to deliver new and improved treatments to patients both quickly and efficiently.

Research and development already occurs at an impressive level, but red tape often holds us back. Through forward-thinking, inclusive policies that support innovation, trade can unite the world’s many medical communities. A scientist in Indianapolis could find a treatment for patient in Rome. Someone suffering from an illness in Moscow could get the help they need thanks to a research lab in San Diego. Trade can help solve global problems with truly global solutions.

On days like today, I think about my health and the health of my loved ones and fellow global citizens. I think about all the people that keep us in good health and play a part in ensuring our well-being – physicians and scientists, manufacturers and public servants. Let’s also be sure to keep trade in mind, because it could help them all, no matter where they call home, reach their common goal.