Governor calls on US president to rely on PR as ‘Made-in-America’ supplier of medicines amid Covid-19 crisis
By José Alvarado Vega
SAN JUAN – Gov. Pedro Pierluisi called on President Joe Biden on Wednesday to emphasize Puerto Rico’s inclusion in an executive order the president signed on Monday, to require the federal government to buy goods made by US workers with US-made parts, touting the “availability and expertise” of the island’s manufacturing industry and workers, who the governor stressed is just as American as the stateside industry.
Biden’s Made-in-America executive order would “close loopholes that allow companies to offshore production and jobs while still qualifying for domestic preferences,” according to a White House statement, which notes that contracting for goods and services accounts for nearly $ 600 billion in federal spending.
A new director of Made-in-America at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will oversee the executive order’s implementation.
“Federal law requires government agencies to give preferences to American firms. However, these preferences have not always been implemented consistently or effectively, ”the statement says. “This Executive Order directs an increase in both the threshold and the price preferences for domestic goods – the difference in price over which government can buy a product from a non-US supplier.”
Moreover, the executive order would “connect new businesses to contracting opportunities by requiring active use of supplier scouting by agencies.”
“This Executive Order directs agencies to utilize the Manufacturing Extension Partnership – a national network in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, that supports small and medium-sized manufacturers – to help agencies connect with new domestic suppliers who can make the products they need while employing America’s workers, ”the White House statement says.
In a statement issued Wednesday by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Office Administration, Gov. Pierluisi welcomed the executive order and pledged to work with OMB’s Made-in-America director and other stakeholders to “bolster President Biden’s initiative and incentivize increased manufacturing in Puerto Rico.”
“I thank President Biden for signing the ‘Made-in-America’ Executive Order (EO) to prioritize American workers by increasing investment in domestic manufacturing,” the governor said in his statement. “This will ensure the strengthening of America’s economy and industry for the benefit of our national security. To reinforce the goals of President Biden’s ‘Made-in-America’ [executive order], I wish to emphasize the availability and expertise of Puerto Rico’s manufacturing industry and workers and to remind everyone that ‘Made in Puerto Rico’ is ‘Made in the USA.’ ”
Pierluisi stressed Puerto Rico’s importance in the US medical supply chain, particularly the island’s readiness to meet the demand for virus treatments during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic crisis. He said that the US reliability on foreign trade partners to meet the nation’s manufacturing needs has “hampered our ability to properly respond to the needs of US citizens in Puerto Rico and on the US mainland.”
“Puerto Rico is ready to meet the manufacturing demands of our nation as we have a readily available workforce of 21,000 highly educated employees, 60 percent of whom have a bachelor’s degree or higher,” the governor said. “Puerto Rico has 49 FDA approved plants available to manufacture medical products, which makes the island the largest exporter of medical and pharmaceutical equipment in the United States.”
Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic crisis promised a silver lining for Puerto Rico’s manufacturing industry in the form of an expected influx of pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, prompted by measures in Washington, based on national security concerns, to incentivize or require American makers of vital medical supplies to move their overseas operations back into the United States. However, the promised return of manufacturing had yet to materialize by year’s end.
Manufacturing leaders on the island had rejoiced over the apparent attention the administration of President Donald Trump was lavishing on Puerto Rico in the form of visits in July and August by a group of White House officials headed by Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown, the president’s special representative to Puerto Rico, who accompanied commonwealth officials, pharmaceutical executives, and representatives from industry groups to inspect several pharmaceutical, medical device, and aerospace industry plants throughout the island, in a matchmaking effort between facilities and prospective investors.
Supported by an executive order signed by President Trump last Aug. 6 that directed federal agencies to ensure essential medical supplies are made in the United States, the visits resulted in the US Department of Defense (DoD) and US Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS) announcing contracts with three medical manufacturers on the island – Copan Industries Inc. in Aguadilla, and Romark and GK Pharmaceuticals plants in Manatí – to make Covid-19-related treatments. No other contracts have been extended to local operations.