Month: December 2020

Open Letter on a European Pharmaceutical Strategy

Dear Commissioner Vestager,
Dear Commissioner Gabriel,
Dear Commissioner Kyriakides

Thanks to the very robust Intellectual Property (IP) framework the European Union is equipped  with, we have been able to develop the first effective COVID-19 vaccine in a European  country, namely Germany, through the work of a European-based company backed by  European venture capitalists. The response of many innovative pharmaceutical and biotech  companies has shown their importance for humanity, as they provide swift reactions to new  threats such as the current pandemic.  

The next pandemic might just be around the corner. Given how many people have suffered and  even lost their lives due to COVID-19, and the immense economic toll it already has on  Europeans, we need to do everything we can to foster and not stifle innovation in Europe. 

This can be achieved by embracing innovation and allow risk-seeking investors such as venture  capitalists and companies to benefit from their investments. To this respect, intellectual  property rights play an important factor. 

The COVID-19 crisis has worsened public and personal finances, reducing people’s accessibility to medicines. If we want to increase access to drugs in all parts of Europe by  maintaining our high innovation incentives, we need to focus on creating more prosperity:  economic growth is the key driver for allowing more people across the globe to access the  cures they need. Loud rhetoric aimed at eroding patent rights is a dangerous saber rattling that  might reduce our ability to innovate in the future and find cures for 95% of those known  diseases we cannot cure yet. 

We need to acknowledge that there are wealth disparities among EU Member States and we  cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to access to medicines. The EU  Commission should focus on maintaining our excellent IP standards and refrain from

intervening in the national rules for pricing and reimbursement decisions. Europe is home to  half of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies. We should not jeopardize this position. 

Kind regards,

Gianna GANCIA MEP
Fulvio MARTUSCIELLO MEP
Salvatore DE MEO MEP
Pernille WEISS MEP
Lucia VUOLO MEP
Matteo ADINOLFI MEP
Massimiliano SALINI MEP
Pietro FIOCCHI MEP
Franc BOGOVIČ MEP
Gianantonio DA RE MEP
Margarita DE LA PISA CARRIÓN MEP
Marzaly AGUILAR, MEP
Stefania ZAMBELLI, MEP
Radan KANEV, MEP
Svenja HAHN, MEP
Hermann TERTSCH, MEP
Klemen GROSELJ, MEP
Carlo CALENDA, MEP
Ivan STEFANEC, MEP
Carlo FIDANZA, MEP
Lukas MANDL, MEP
Dominique BILDE, MEP
Elena LIZZI, MEP
Anna-Michelle ASSIMAKOPOULOU, MEP
Simona BALDASSARRE, MEP
Valentino GRANT, MEP
Nicola PROCACCINI, MEP
Sergio BERLATO, MEP
Isabel BENJUMEA, MEP
Pavel SVOBODA, MEP
Fred ROEDER, Consumer Choice Center


Pushing back against NIMBYism in Niagara

Unfortunately, NIMBYism isn’t just reserved for our major cities. It can rear its head in our small towns, and stretch into areas well beyond housing and development, writes David Clement.

Not In My Back Yard, otherwise known as “NIMBYism,” is a growing phenomenon in Canadian towns and cities.

Frequently, we see middle and upper income Canadians oppose new housing projects on suspect grounds such as environmental concerns, the height of buildings and even the shadow a building will cast. Under the banner of protecting a community’s “character” many developments get sidetracked, delayed or cancelled altogether.

Unfortunately, NIMBYism isn’t just reserved for our major cities. It can rear its head in our small towns, and stretch into areas well beyond housing and development.

For wine lovers in Southern Ontario, one small town that is regularly frequented is Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you are like me, weekends in Niagara are truly wonderful. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that part of what makes Southern Ontario so great is that wine country is so close.

Unfortunately for wine lovers, the NIMBYs of Niagara-on-the-Lake have started to chip away at what makes the region so much fun.

First, was the town’s proposed noise bylaw that would cap noise at 55 decibels at any time of day. For reference, light vehicle traffic brings readings of well over 60 decibels. The proposal, if it was approved, would have come with a $350 fine for anyone caught “being too loud.” Beyond being a perfect example of the ever encroaching nanny state, the proposal would have been devastating for local businesses, and the region’s most important sector, the wine industry. If that proposal was approved, it would have outlawed virtually all live music, shut down the area’s winery concert venues, and eliminated popular events like “movie nights in the vines.” Luckily for those who frequent the region, like myself, the town quickly backtracked in the face of public pressure, and the bylaw was scrapped unanimously by council in August.

While consumers, and fun, conquered NIMBYism in August, that relief was short lived. Town council in Niagara-on-the-Lake has now set its sights on homesharing platforms like Airbnb. New proposed regulations would require that any homesharing listing be the primary residence of the owner, meaning you have to physically live on the property if you are renting it out to tourists. If approved, this would eliminate over 150 rentals in the area which are not the primary residence of the owner, and likely force those owners to sell.

These properties are obviously vital for their owners, but more importantly, the availability of these rentals are instrumental for tourists travelling to wine country, and the local economies that depend on that influx of economic activity. A popular homesharing listing in the area can easily get 100-plus bookings a season, which represents tens of thousands of dollars worth of economic benefit for local stores, restaurants and wineries. These rentals are popular because they give tourists the opportunity to rent a fully private space, with an authentic experience, as opposed to a simple room in a hotel.

Eliminating these businesses and making it harder for tourists to find affordable accommodation seems like a backward strategy given the horrific impact the pandemic has had on tourism and hospitality. You would think that local legislators would air on the side of economic growth in these conditions, rather than doubling down on restrictions and regulations.

Supporters of the principal residence mandate might point to cities like Toronto, who have implemented similar restrictions on homesharing. However, in Toronto the justification for doing so was to increase supply in the long term rental market. Those restrictions were misguided when they were passed, and the jury is still out regarding the impact it had on the long term rental market. That said, could Toronto’s justification also apply for Niagara-on-the-Lake? Toronto has a population density 31 times larger than Niagara-on-the-Lake, which makes the housing supply argument disingenuous at best. If town council is concerned about the housing stock or the long-term rental market, there is lots of room for modest development.

Luckily for those who are bothered by the rise of NIMBYism, these regulations are just a proposal, and the public can still provide comment to town council. Hopefully, enough people express their outrage, and we can win yet another battle against the rise of NIMBYism.

Originally published here.

FTC’S FACEBOOK TRUSTBUSTING IS A ZEALOUS TAKEDOWN

WASHINGTON, D.C — On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued its long-awaited lawsuit, in conjunction with attorneys general from 46 states, that aims to force Facebook to break up its popular services WhatsApp and Instagram for alleged “anticompetitive” behavior.

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a millennial consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said the FTC’s lawsuit does more to actively harm consumers than help.

“The actions by agencies of our federal and state governments to try to dismantle Facebook’s legal business acquisitions after-the-fact are woefully misguided and will end up harming consumers,” said Ossowski. “These are free services offered to consumers in a competitive marketplace that boasts hundreds of social apps for messaging, photo sharing, and social networking.”

The social media platform lawfully purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, and also bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, offering both cash and stock options for its founders.

Both services were acquired and already greenlit by the FTC, and have achieved inordinate amounts of success and user growth since.

The Success Of WhatsApp And Instagram

“In terms of social messaging users, WhatsApp is dwarfed by Facebook’s own Messenger and even Snapchat in the United States. And that’s not even considering the nearly 200 million American iPhone users who predominately use iMessage or the nearly 100% of cell phone users who use traditional SMS,” said Ossowski.

“Instagram was a risky investment in 2012 and has grown to become successful because of Facebook’s own innovation and algorithms. Small businesses and entrepreneurs benefit from these platforms because they can reach customers and consumers love them for their ability to share pictures and videos with friends and family,” said Ossowski.

“This amounts to nothing more than a zealous takedown of American innovation by the political and legal class. If the FTC is successful, it would empower and embolden foreign companies far from the reach of our laws and institutions at the expense of our own tech sector.

“Let’s be clear: The internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed,” said Ossowski.

“Rather than speaking for consumers, the federal government and attorneys general are willingly quashing their preferences and choice. That is a much more powerful monopoly than any social media platform could ever hope to achieve,” said Ossowski.

Originally published here.

Will no MP stand up to supply management?

Phasing out supply management with a transition plan is fair for producers, helps Canada embrace trade, and lowers prices on essential food items

A dairy farm in Ontario.

Last month, something rare happened in the House of Commons. MPs from all parties unanimously agreed on something. Unfortunately for Canadian consumers, what they agreed on was first reading of Bill C-216, a private member’s bill put forward by the Bloc Québécois to protect supply-managed farmers from any concessions in future trade deals.

Supply management is, of course, the system of quotas and tariffs that limits domestic production of dairy products, chicken, turkey and eggs and discourages imports via high tariffs, thus producing less choice and higher prices for consumers. Approval of the bill would mean that any future trade deal — with the United Kingdom post-Brexit, say — would be sidetracked if our counterparts requested concessions in these areas. This is a movie we’ve seen before. Supply management was a huge issue in renegotiating NAFTA, now the USMCA, and delayed our reaching the Canada-Europe agreement (CETA). That MPs would handcuff themselves to protect this system at the expense of future trade deals is mind-boggling.

Why? Because the case for supply management rests on very shaky ground. Supporters argue that Canada’s dairy industry operates without government subsidies, which is why it is appropriate to have massive tariffs on foreign imports. Yes, it is true that U.S. dairy farmers get taxpayer support through the infamous Farm Bill. But supply management itself is tantamount to a subsidy — one that, as the Canada West Foundation points out, is between 3.5 and seven times more valuable than current U.S. dairy subsidies.

Even if we did have to protect our farmers from unfair subsidization by others, that argument wouldn’t apply to dairy imports from New Zealand, which has no farm subsidies at all. For countries that do subsidize their dairy farmers, we could level the playing field by simply having our tariffs offset their subsidy, which in the case of U.S. dairy would mean drastically reducing tariffs from their current levels.

Another common claim is that supply management protects the family farm. Not so. When the system was implemented in the 1970s there were over 100,000 dairy farms in Canada. Today there are fewer than 11,000. That doesn’t prove supply management decimated family farms, but it does clearly show that our supply-managed sector has been just as susceptible to consolidation as the rest of agriculture.

Probably the least credible claim made by supply management’s supporters is that ending it would destroy the Canadian dairy industry, as a flood of cheap imported milk, mainly American, would undercut Canadian producers and put our farmers out of business. Oddly enough, this argument is made by the same people who contend that supply management doesn’t artificially inflate prices. The industry regularly claims that foreign milk is not less expensive than Canadian.

You may recall Schrödinger’s cat from quantum physics, which was both alive and dead at the same time. Here we have “Schrödinger’s dairy cow.” If imports aren’t cheaper than Canadian milk, what threat do they present in terms of undercutting Canadian farmers? Peer-reviewed research shows, on the contrary, that supply management does artificially inflate prices for Canadian consumers, adding upwards of $500 to the average family’s grocery bill each year, which in turn pushes between 133,000 and 189,000 Canadians below the poverty line.

So, would eliminating supply management mean the end of the Canadian industry? Not necessarily, according to research by Colin Carter and Pierre Mérel published in the Canadian Journal of Economics. Doing away with supply management would mean more competition for dairy farmers but it would also mean more export opportunities abroad. With globalization lifting hundreds of millions of people worldwide out of poverty and into the middle class, demand for these products has risen. Consumption of dairychicken and eggs have all increased over the past decade as a result of new demand from the global middle class that is only expected to continue. New trade deals would allow Canadian farmers to sell their products to this new group of consumers — leading these researchers to conclude that “supply management may no longer be beneficial to domestic producers of the supply‐managed commodities.”

Rather than preventing trade deals to preserve supply management, we should be signing trade deals that chip away at it. Our trade relationships would benefit but, more importantly, so would all Canadian consumers. If we have to pay compensation to farmers for quota in the transition, so be it. We’ve transitioned other industries from protection to competition before, like Canadian wine when we first sought a free trade agreement with the United States. In fact, reform-and-compensate is what both the Harper government while negotiating CETA and the Trudeau government while negotiating NAFTA did for dairy farmers, albeit they over-paid on compensation and under-delivered on market access.

Completely phasing out supply management with a modest compensation and transition plan is fair for producers, helps Canada embrace trade, and lowers prices on essential food items.

It’s a good policy. MPs should embrace it, not mindlessly oppose it.

Originally published here.

Електронні цигарки як спосіб кинути курити

Обмеження доступу до вейпінгу шляхом підняття акцизних податків зробить гірше для всіх, але в перше чергу для хронічних курців.

Інноваційний характер вейпінгу дозволив йому швидко набути популярності серед курців. У той же час, оскільки це відносно нова технологія, вона була сприйнята з підозрою по всьому світу, зокрема в Європейському Союзі. Україна – не виняток. З 1-го січня 2021-го року, для електронних сигарет вводиться окрема товарна підгрупа і встановлюється ставка акцизного податку на рівні 1456,33 грн за 1 тис. штук в 2021 році. Щорічно ця ставка буде підвищуватись на 20% до рівня 2516,54 грн за 1 тис. штук в 2024 році.

Останнім часом все більше анти-вейпінгової критики зводиться до того, що вейпінг сприймається як спосіб заманити споживачів до традиційного куріння. Однак, це не так. Чим більше ми обмежуємо доступ до вейпінгу, тим менше курців отримують шанс перейти на більш безпечну та здорову альтернативу. Ми знаємо достатньо про вейпінг, щоб підтримати його на державному рівні, а не обкладати вищими акцизними податками.

Останнє дослідження дослідження про боротьбу з тютюнопалінням та здоров’ям (ASH) у Великобританії зазначає, що  “лише 0,3% тих, хто ніколи не палить, є вейперами (що становить 2,9% вейперів)”. Отже, не можна довести ефект доступу до куріння через вейпінг і багато досліджень показують протилежний ефект. Наприклад, рівень куріння у Великобританії – де державні органи охорони здоров’я заохочують вейпінг як спосіб кинути курити – є найнижчим ніж коли-небудь, і немає жодних ознак того, що вейпінг збільшує рівень куріння.

Більше того, у країнах, які підтримують вейпінг, помітно зменшилась кількість курців порівняно з країнами, що обрали шлях зарегулювання сфери. Одним із останніх прикладів є Австралія, яка дуже вороже ставиться до вейпінгу. Такий підхід має наступні наслідки: боротба з курінням там набагато менш успішна, ніж у Сполучених Штатах, або Великобританії, які є вейп-дружніми країнами. У Великобританії сьогодні курять приблизно на 25% менше людей порівняно з 2013-го роком, тоді як у США спостерігається зменшення на 24%. За той же період в Австралії спостерігалося падіння лише на 8%.

Співвідношення між впровадженням та популярністю вейпінгу, та зниженням рівня паління свідчить про те, що вейпінг є важливою інновацією, яка допомагає людям кинути палити. Звіт Національної академій наук, техніки та медицини США за 2018-ий рік. виявив, що рівень куріння загалом зменшився швидше, оскільки вейпінг став більш помітним у Сполучених Штатах.

Інше досілдження проведене в Англії в 2015-ому році свідчить про те, що вейпінг є на 95% менше шкідливим, ніж традиційний тютюн, і, таким чином, вейпінг рекомендують як спосіб боротьби з курінням у Великобританії. Більше того, вейпінг там навіть пропонують в лікарнях. ФранціяКанада та Нова Зеландія послідували цьому прикладу.

Важливо пам’ятати, що попит на сигарети сам по собі є нееластичним, і такі заходи, як заборона реклами та акцизні податки не є ефективними у боротьбі з курінням. Навпаки, вейпінг служить рятівною альтернативою, яка надає курцям можливість зменшити ризики, пов’язані зі здоров’ям, і врешті-решт кинути палити.

Ефективність електронних сигарет як засобу для відмови від куріння незаперечна, оскільки вони спрямовані на курців, а не на тих хто не курить. Останні тенденції, що прагнуть представити електронні цигарки як перший крок до куріння є популістичними. Електронні сигарети допомагають кинути курити, а тому обмеження доступу до вейпінгу шляхом підняття акцизних податків зробить тільки гірше для всіх, але в перше чергу для хронічних курців.

Originally published here.

Our “sustainable” food policy leaves us with unsustainable trade

The ambitious targets of the F2F strategy will cause headaches for the EU’s trade policy.

The European Commission has laid out an ambitious plan with the Farm to Fork strategy, which is set to flip agriculture in Europe upside down. For the EU, agriculture is to blame for much of the lack of sustainability in Europe, forcing farmers to pick up much of the burden of the fight against climate change. To do so, it sets out two flagship targets: 25% organic farming by 2030, and a reduction of pesticides by 50% in the same timeframe.

Some experts have pointed out the adverse effects of bringing organic food production up, since a) organic food also needs pesticides, and b) it emits more carbon dioxide emissions than conventional agriculture. The same goes for pesticides: the amount of pesticides used today is incomparable to the level of substances used in the 1960s. Existing chemical substances are declared safe by EU agencies, and countless regulators in the member states. However, those facts are stories in themselves. What is often forgotten in the debate is the import of “unsustainable” food.

On the one hand, Europe’s increasing food standards worsen the effect of illicit trade. Take the example of fraudulent organic food imports. In its 2019 report titled “The control system for organic products has improved, but some challenges remain“, the European Court of Auditors found structural problems with the control system of organic food trade, despite controls being implemented in 1991.

 In a section on the communication on non-compliance, the ECA writes:

“In Bulgaria, we found that some control bodies notified the competent authority about certain types of non-compliances only through their annual reporting. The competent authority did not notice this during its supervisory activities. In Czechia, we found that on average control bodies took 33 days in 2016 and 55 days in 2017 to report a non-compliance affecting the organic status of a product to the competent authority.” 

The report also notes that non-compliance communication delays are 38 calendar days on average in the European Union, while existing regulations stipulate that reporting should happen without delay. This means that non-compliant organic products, i.e. fraudulent organic trade, continue a month on average in the legal circulation of the European single market, before being flagged to consumers. 

If the European Union and its member states are serious about quality control and consumer information and protection, they need detection and reporting mechanisms that outperform the supply chain. The ECA also notes that member states were delayed in their reporting to the European Commission by an average of 4 months and that 50% of all analysed reports were missing information. China is the largest exporter of organic food to the European Union (based on weight, 2018 figures, from ECA report, see below). With significant difficulties concerning quality control of a large range of products originating from China, it should be clear that EU institutions must prioritise the authenticity of these food imports.

Further than that, legal imports will also eventually fall under the category of unsustainable under the rules and regulations of the European Union. This is already leading to a considerable problem with the adoption of the Mercosur-EU free trade agreement, and has in the past prevented agreements like TTIP. Europe will face a difficult choice: double down on the planned standards, and thereby risking to raise protectionist barriers, or even create food insecurity, or rather re-evaluate the necessity for certain environmental goals. 

Some voices want the first option, and prevent unsustainable imports through carbon border taxes, which are import tariffs. They forget to ask themselves, if production in Europe has slowed, will prevention imports really be the solution that manages to keep farming in Europe afloat?

The targets set in the Farm to Fork strategy are set to have dire impacts. According to an impact assessment conducted by USDA, the strategy would lead to a decline in agricultural production between 7-12%. Meanwhile, the EU’s decline in GDP would represent 76% of the decline in the worldwide GDP. Adding to that, the situation of food security and food commodity prices deteriorates significantly under a worldwide adoption scenario, as USDA researchers have found.

Europe should not get ahead of itself and worsen the standards of living for consumers and farmers alike. The Farm to Fork strategy either needs a serious rethink or a long-term moratorium.

Originally published here.

Biden Can Channel Libertarian Ideas to Woo Some of the Trump Coalition

The 2016 Donald Trump coalition was one for the ages.

These were far from typical Republican voters, made up of disaffected liberals, libertarians, nationalists, run-of-the-mill conservatives and skeptics of adventurous foreign policy.

Rhetoric on “dismantling” of the administrative state, promises of low taxes and cutting down on wars abroad convinced many moderates and libertarians who otherwise wouldn’t have backed a GOP candidate. In 2020, due to many reasons, that coalition didn’t deliver for Trump.

As President-elect Biden assembles his administration and evaluates the coalitions that brought him to power, he’d be wise to channel some libertarian ideas that made 2016 Trump somewhat appealing to these groups and perhaps pivot public policy in a freer direction.

To begin, the incoming Biden administration has an opportunity to return America to a humble foreign policy and reduce our involvement in endless wars, a sentiment shared by large majorities of the American people.

A August 2020 YouGov poll commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute found that 74 percent of Americans support bringing troops home from Iraq and 76 percent of Americans support bringing troops home from Afghanistan. The findings were nearly identical among Republicans and Democrats. A plurality (48 percent) of those polled believe we should be less militarily engaged in conflicts around the world.

If we remember the 2016 version of Trump, he was a standout in the GOP primary because he spoke to the voters who believed it was time to draw down America’s military presence overseas. Biden has proven to be a cheerleader for interventionism in the past, but the American electorate’s current tolerance for war is at an all-time low.

Beyond the wars themselves, Biden should also restore the balance of powers to restore Congress’ ability to decide war and peace. A 2018 survey by the Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy found that 64 percent of Americans disapproved of Congress’s lack of leadership on military matters.

It also found that 78.8 percent of respondents agreed that Congress should “require clearly defined goals to authorize military engagement overseas.”

That would help reduce the amount of armed conflict where we send our soldiers, and also keep Congress accountable to the people. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t still have troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and countless other nations.

Here at home, Biden should continue Trump’s laudable criminal justice reform efforts, which are currently being led by Republican state legislators across the country. In 2018, Trump signed the First Step Act, earning praise from all political sides by enacting needed prison and sentencing reforms.

Over 3,000 inmates were released as a result of the law, and it will be a good start to future Biden efforts. A June 2020 Associated Press poll found that 94 percent of Americans support at least some changes to the criminal justice system, and it has become a key area of agreement between libertarians, progressives, and conservatives.

The social justice protests of the last few months will add plenty of heat to Biden’s team to hasten change.

When it comes to revitalizing our economy still in the thralls of COVID, one achievable policy area is occupational licensing reform, clearing the barriers for millions of Americans to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams without the red tape of government.

Reducing the number of occupations that need licenses overall, but also ensuring that licenses are valid nationally would help push the least well-off into the middle class. As the work of the Institute of Justice has proven, these restrictions most often harm the working poor.

In 2015, President Obama’s own Treasury Department issued a report arguing that “licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines.”

Democratic governors in Pennsylvania and Montana as well as Republican governors in Arizona and Utah have passed legislation enshrining reciprocity for occupational licenses, erasing the notion that a license obtained in one state should be invalid in another. Removing federal barriers would be the next key ingredient.

One of the more difficult areas for Biden’s administration’s outreach to Trump voters will be that of trade.

Economists from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support free trade because they understand that international trade is not a zero-sum game, but a mutually beneficial exchange. It’s a free market applied globally. But that won’t convince the former factory worker in Ohio or Pennsylvania who checked Trump’s name at the ballot box.

Trump made his name as a stalwart against China, and it is true that there is a reason for concern, especially when it comes to intellectual property theft and the long arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

But the fact remains that Trump “Tariff Man” trade wars have been disastrous for all of us.

A 2019 report by the Brookings Institution estimated ongoing trade wars cost the U.S. hundreds of thousands of jobs and potentially billions in economic growth. Washer and dryers, for example, are now 12 percent more expensive now than before Trump waged his trade war.

Tariffs slapped on other countries, we should remember, are essentially taxes on American consumers. That message needs to be top of mind for Biden and his appointees if they want to restore prosperity.

Policies and ideas matter, and now is the time to contribute to that. Skeptics of governmental power will have all the reasons in the world to oppose and restrict Biden, but we should at least promote the ideas that we know will galvanize support across all of our society.

Originally published here.

The government’s Facebook trustbusting is a zealous takedown that harms consumers and punishes innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C — On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission issued its long-awaited lawsuit, in conjunction with attorneys general from 46 states, that aims to force Facebook to break up its popular services WhatsApp and Instagram for alleged “anticompetitive” behavior.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a millennial consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said the FTC’s lawsuit does more to actively harm consumers than help.

“The actions by agencies of our federal and state governments to try to dismantle Facebook’s legal business acquisitions after-the-fact are woefully misguided and will end up harming consumers,” said Ossowski. “These are free services offered to consumers in a competitive marketplace that boasts hundreds of social apps for messaging, photo sharing, and social networking.”

The social media platform lawfully purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, and also bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, offering both cash and stock options for its founders.

Both services were acquired and already greenlit by the FTC, and have achieved inordinate amounts of success and user growth since.

“In terms of social messaging users, WhatsApp is dwarfed by Facebook’s own Messenger and even Snapchat in the United States. And that’s not even considering the nearly 200 million iPhone US users who predominately use iMessage, or the nearly 100% of cell phone users who use traditional SMS,” said Ossowski.

“Instagram was a risky investment in 2012, and has grown to become successful because of Facebook’s own innovation and algorithms. Small businesses and entrepreneurs benefit from these platforms because they can reach customers and consumers love them for their ability to share pictures and videos with friends and family,” said Ossowski.

“This amounts to nothing more than a zealous takedown of American innovation by the political and legal class. If the FTC is successful, it would empower and embolden foreign companies far from the reach of our laws and institutions at the expense of our own tech sector.

“Let’s be clear: The internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed,” said Ossowski.

“Rather than speaking for consumers, the federal government and attorneys general are willingly quashing their preferences and choice. That is a much more powerful monopoly than any social media platform could ever hope to achieve,” said Ossowski.

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The Consumer Choice Center represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Washington, Ottawa, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice.

Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

European Green Deal wird für Verbraucher teuer werden

Eine Folgenabschätzung der Europäischen Kommission legt die Kosten des “European Green Deal” dar – für Verbraucher wird es wohl teuer werden. Von Gastautor Fred Röder.

Der für den Green Deal zuständige Exekutiv-Vizepräsident der EU-Kommission Frans Timmermans bei einer Pressekonferenz, Quelle: Shutterstock

Der European Green Deal (EGD) ist einer der Eckpfeiler der Von der Leyen-Kommission in Brüssel. Es ist in den letzten Jahren klar geworden, dass es größeren Wählerdruck gibt um eine grünere Politik zu betreiben. Auf EU-Ebene hat dies zu hitzigen Debatten beim Thema Freihandel, Landwirtschaftsreformen und Emissionshandel geführt.

Der EGD ist ehrgeizig – er strebt an, bis 2050 null Nettoemissionen zu erreichen, wobei “Wirtschaftswachstum von der Ressourcennutzung abgekoppelt” werden soll. Dies soll durch Strukturreformen im Bereich der Landwirtschaft, die Entkarbonisierung des Energiesektors und die Einführung neuer Besteuerungssysteme zur Vermeidung nicht-nachhaltiger Importe nach Europa erreicht werden. Eine entscheidende Frage wird jedoch ausgeklammert:: zu welchen Kosten? Die zusätzlichen Ausgaben für die Europäische Union werden sich auf satte 260 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr (zwischen 2020 und 2030) belaufen. Es wird allerdings nicht nur der EU-Haushalt belastet, sondern direkten Kosten für Verbraucher werden ebenfalls steigen.

Ende September hat die Europäische Kommission eine Folgenabschätzungsstudie veröffentlicht. deren Ergebnisse sowohl von der Kommission als auch in der breiteren Medienlandschaft weitgehend ignoriert wurden. Das ist jedoch überraschend, denn in fast allen Modellen kommt es zu einem Rückgang des europäischen Bruttoinlandsprodukts. Die teilweise gravierenden Einbrüche werden vor allem durch Rückgänge bei Beschäftigung, Konsum und Exporten verursacht. Besonders verheerend wird der wirtschaftliche Schaden für die Mitgliedstaaten sein, die stark von Exportindustrien abhängig sind und für viele Menschen mit begrenzten Wiederbeschäftigungsmöglichkeiten in diesen Ländern. Deshalb wird insbesondere Deutschland die Folgen dieser Politik zu spüren bekommen Als Exportnation wird es Deutschland härter treffen als weniger von Industrie abhängige Länder..

Bereits bestehenden soziale Ungleichheiten werden durch steigenden Energiepreise für Verbraucher noch extremer werden. Wie die Energiewende in Deutschland bereits zeigte, hat ein überstürzter Umstieg  erneuerbaren Energiequellen, der über Subventionsprogramme und nicht Verbrauchernachfrage erfolgte, die Energiepreise für die Verbraucher stark erhöht. In der Folgenabschätzung der Kommission wird dies anerkannt, allerdings in einer Formulierung die von wenig Mitgefühl für die betroffenen Bürger zeugt: “Ein Nachteil aus sozialer Sicht sind die höheren Energiepreise für die Verbraucher”. Es als “Nachteil” zu bezeichnen, wird den immensen Kosten für einkommensschwache Verbraucher nicht gerecht.

In der Debatte um den European Green Deal wird häufig davon gesprochen, dass umweltpolitische Veränderungen die Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen und Wohlstand ermöglichen. EGD-Superkommissar Frans Timmermans spricht gerne von “grünen Arbeitsplätzen” und bezieht sich dabei auf die Möglichkeiten, die durch die Pläne der Kommission geschaffen werden. Anstatt dass ihn die COVID-19-Krise einen sanften Ton anschlagen lässt, meint Timmermans, dass “unsere Antwort auf die Covid-19-Krise es uns ermöglicht, Arbeitsplätze nicht für Jahre, sondern für Jahrzehnte zu retten und neue Arbeitsplätze zu schaffen. Wir werden vielleicht nie wieder so viel ausgeben können, um unsere Wirtschaft wieder anzukurbeln – und ich hoffe, dass wir das nie wieder tun müssen”. Wird er es sich jetzt noch einmal überlegen, nachdem die Folgenabschätzung seiner eigenen Kommission drei Wochen nach seiner Rede ergeben hat, dass die Kosten für diese Strategie erheblich sind und insbesondere die unteren Einkommensschichten treffen werden?

Angesichts der angespannten Lage, in der die Wirtschaft und dadurch auch die Bürger besonders leiden, sollten die Diskussion um die Energiewende, wie die des EGD, alle relevanten Aspekte beinhalten – auch die negativen Auswirkungen auf die Konsumenten. Natürlich kann man meinen, dass die Kosten des EU-Plans im Angesicht der klimapolitischen Ziele gerechtfertigt sind, doch man sollte dabei nicht vertuschen, dass Verbraucher, Arbeiter, und kleine Unternehmer besonders unter diesen Entscheidungen leiden werden. Eine offene Diskussion im Sinner der Prinzipien Transparenz und verantwortlicher Regierungsführung ist notwendig, bevor Millionen von Menschen die Rechnung für diese Energiepolitik vorgelegt bekommen.

Originally published here.

Europe’s new Pharmaceutical Strategy needs adjustments

The existing IP framework of the EU has allowed us to get a vaccine before Christmas.

The rapid development of several highly effective vaccines against COVID19 is a great success for humanity. The United Kingdom was the world’s first country to approve a COVID vaccine, and hopefully soon, the European and US drug agencies will follow the UK’s lead.

Thanks to the very robust intellectual property (IP) framework the EU has, we were able to have the first effective COVID vaccine being developed in the EU (Germany) by a European company backed by European venture capitalists. The response of many innovative pharmaceutical and biotech companies has shown how important they are for humanity to respond to new threats such as COVID swiftly. Companies such as BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have quickly responded early on by developing new and ground-breaking vaccines that will make 2021 most likely more enjoyable than this current year. The next pandemic might just be around the corner. Given how many humans have suffered and even lost their lives from COVID and the immense economic toll on Europeans, we need to do everything we can to foster and not stifle innovation in Europe.

Our resilience can only be increased by embracing innovation (the permission to use gene editing for covid vaccines is a good example) and allow risk-seeking investors such as venture capitalists and companies to benefit from their investments. Intellectual property rights are an essential factor. While the Commission’s new pharmaceutical strategy acknowledges IP rights as a safeguard for innovation, it also aggressively talks about centralizing pricing and reimbursement decisions away from member states and towards a unified European approach. This could be horrible news for our resilience when facing future public health crises. 

The COVID pandemic has worsened public and personal finances and hence reduces patients’ accessibility to medicines. If we want to increase access to drugs in all parts of Europe and, at the same time, maintain our high innovation incentives, we need to focus on creating more prosperity. Ultimately economic growth is the critical driver for allowing more patients to access the drugs they need. Loud rhetoric aimed at eroding patent rights is dangerous saber-rattling that might reduce our ability to innovate in the future and find cures for that 95% of known diseases we can’t cure yet.

We need to acknowledge that there are wealth disparities among EU member states, and we can’t have a one size fits all approach when it comes to access to medicines. EU-wide pricing decisions might delay introducing new medicines across the entire block and hence would be a raise to the bottom in terms of access to lifesaving drugs. We might risk getting innovative drugs at the time of their approval elsewhere in the world. Instead of loud and bold statements to negotiate drug prices down, the Commission should embrace innovation and also work on OECD-wide reciprocity of drug approvals. Why should EU citizens have to wait for the EMA to approve vaccines when they have already proved safe and available to UK residents? 

The EU Commission should maintain our excellent intellectual property standards and not intervene in the national rules for pricing and reimbursement decisions. Furthermore, it is paramount that governments refrain from picking winners in the race for new treatments and vaccines and therefore maintain technology neutrality. The German government, for instance, was quick to invest in one vaccine manufacturer early on. Still, despite a massive injection of taxpayer money, another German company won the race to be the first one with an effective vaccine. Europe is home to half of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies. We should not jeopardize this position but aim for more and not less innovation in the European Union.

Originally published here.

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