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ABBIAMO IL VACCINO: GRAZIE DIRITTI DI PROPRIETÀ INTELLETTUALE!

vaccino

L’attuale quadro normativo per tutelare i diritti di proprietà nell’Unione Europea ha garantito la produzione rapida di un vaccino per la Covid-19. La nuova strategia per i farmaci della Commissione UE rischia però di penalizzare un sistema funzionante e limitare l’innovazione.

Il rapido sviluppo di vaccini altamente efficaci contro la Covid-19 è un grande successo per l’umanità. Il Regno Unito è stato il primo paese al mondo ad approvare e somministrare una delle versioni del vaccino, e si spera che presto le agenzie farmaceutiche europee e statunitensi seguiranno l’esempio del Regno Unito.

PERCHÉ È IMPORTANTE

Grazie al solido quadro normativo che tutela la proprietà intellettuale (IP) dell’Unione Europea (UE), siamo stati in grado di avere il primo vaccino per la Covid-19 efficace sviluppato nell’UE (in Germania) da una società europea sostenuta da venture capitalist europei. Il lavoro di ricerca e sviluppo portato avanti da molte aziende farmaceutiche e biotecnologiche innovative ha dimostrato quanto sia importante per l’umanità rispondere rapidamente alle nuove sfide.

Aziende come BioNTech, Moderna e AstraZeneca hanno risposto rapidamente, sviluppando nuovi e innovativi vaccini che, molto probabilmente, renderanno il 2021 migliore rispetto quest’ultimo anno. La prossima pandemia potrebbe essere dietro l’angolo. Considerando quanti esseri umani hanno sofferto e perso la vita e l’immenso tributo economico che grava sugli europei, dobbiamo fare tutto il possibile per promuovere e non soffocare l’innovazione in Europa.

LA STRATEGIA FARMACEUTICA DELL’UE

La nostra resilienza può essere aumentata solo abbracciando l’innovazione (il permesso di usare l’editing genico per i vaccini è un buon esempio) e garantendo agli investitori, come i venture capitalist e le aziende, incentivi e remunerazioni per gli investimenti. I diritti di proprietà intellettuale sono un fattore essenziale. La nuova strategia farmaceutica della Commissione riconosce i diritti di proprietà intellettuale come una salvaguardia per l’innovazione, ma parla anche in modo aggressivo di centralizzare le decisioni sui prezzi e sui rimborsi lontano dagli Stati membri e verso un approccio europeo unificato. Questa potrebbe non essere una buona notizia per la nostra capacità di resistenza di fronte a future crisi sanitarie.

NON POSSIAMO TORNARE INDIETRO

La pandemia ha peggiorato le finanze pubbliche e individuali con il rischio di ridurre l’accessibilità dei pazienti a molti farmaci in tutte le aree europee. Per impedire che ciò accada e mantenere elevati incentivi all’innovazione dobbiamo concentrarci sulla creazione di maggiore prosperità e migliorare le prospettive di crescita economica. Fattori critici per migliorare anche i sistemi sanitari e l’accesso alle cure e alle terapie avanzate. Una forte retorica volta a erodere i diritti brevettuali è una pericolosa sciabola che potrebbe ridurre la nostra capacità di innovare in futuro e trovare cure per molte malattie conosciute che non possiamo ancora curare.

UN VACCINO CONTRO LA BUROCRAZIA

Dobbiamo riconoscere che ci sono disparità nei livelli di ricchezza tra gli Stati membri dell’UE, e non possiamo avere un approccio unico per tutti. L’uniformazione dei prezzi dei farmaci in tutta l’UE potrebbe ritardarne l’introduzione con conseguenze gravi sul piano dell’accessibilità e della disponibilità. Invece di dichiarazioni forti per negoziare la riduzione dei prezzi dei farmaci, la Commissione dovrebbe abbracciare l’innovazione e lavorare anche sulla reciprocità delle approvazioni dei farmaci in tutta l’area OCSE. Perché i cittadini dell’UE dovrebbero aspettare molto più tempo che l’EMA approvi i vaccini quando questi si sono già dimostrati sicuri e disponibili per i residenti nel Regno Unito?

La Commissione UE dovrebbe mantenere gli attuali eccellenti standard di proprietà intellettuale e non intervenire nelle regole nazionali per le decisioni sui prezzi e sui rimborsi. Inoltre, è fondamentale che i governi si astengano dal proclamare i vincitori nella selezione dei nuovi trattamenti così come dei vaccini, mantenendo il principio di neutralità tecnologica. Il governo tedesco, ad esempio, è stato rapido a investire in un produttore di vaccini. Tuttavia, nonostante una massiccia iniezione di denaro dei contribuenti, un’altra azienda tedesca ha vinto la corsa per essere la prima ad avere un vaccino efficace. L’Europa è la patria della metà delle prime dieci aziende farmaceutiche del mondo. Non dovremmo mettere a repentaglio questa posizione, ma puntare a crearne altre, favorire l’innovazione e la libera concorrenza nell’Unione Europea.

Originally published here

U.S. Regulators Struggle With Flavored E-liquid Rules

The vapor industry continues to face several regulatory challenges. One of the most challenging of those is the seemingly never-ending battle against flavor bans for e-liquids. As most any vaper will tell you, flavors are instrumental in keeping former smokers from returning to combustible cigarettes. However, flavors are also what many industry regulators and anti-vapor advocates say lure youth to try vaping.

During Vape Live, a three-day virtual trade show and seminar hosted by Ireland-based Vapouround magazine, flavors and flavor bans in the United States, the world’s largest vapor market, were trending topics. Carlo Infurna Wangüemert, a vapor market analyst with ECigIntelligence, a regulatory research resource for the e-cigarette and tobacco alternatives industry, discussed recent market trends and the factors that are influencing the U.S. vapor market.

Wangüemert said that several factors are affecting the U.S. market: the e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) scare, the Covid-19 pandemic and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs). He said that Covid-19 didn’t impact market growth as much as it impacted consumer behavior.

“We’ve seen a reduction of purchasing occasions and an increase of basket sizes [during the Covid-19 crisis],” he said. “We’ve also observed consumers buying a lot before the crisis in order to have enough stock in case of lockdowns, and it might also have affected the supply side as many independent shops had to close or have suffered an important drop of sales.”

Concerning supplies, Wangüemert sees the PMTAs drastically reducing the amount of variety on the market as many brands will try to keep their offerings as simple as possible. Before the FDA’s ban on prefilled flavored vape pods, those products represented half of the U.S. vapor market. Now, there is a rise in disposable e-cigarettes and refillable pod systems, according to Wangüemert. He said that this has led to several innovations in flavor output, such as better coils in open pod systems.

“Basically, hardware manufacturers are trying to develop new features and improving the functionality of their devices to make them small but complex enough to cover all vapers’ needs,” said Wangüemert, citing innovations that allow vapers to change temperature or change from mouth-to-lung to direct-to-lung with just one button as examples.

Refillable pod systems are the fastest-growing trend in the vapor industry, according to ECigIntelligence data. This is because they offer a larger selection of flavored e-liquids. Prefilled pods, however, are dropping because the only available flavors, tobacco and menthol, generate less complexity.

“Prefilled pods … show fairly well how regulation can have an impact on the market,” he said. “This ban is fully enforced online as only those two flavors are offered currently. We’ve observed an ongoing drop in the complexity of their flavors. Tobacco is [now] probably the most important flavor in prefilled pods.”

The U.S. market has also seen a surge in nicotine strengths, brought on mostly by the growing popularity of nicotine salts. Wangüemert said that nicotine salt-based e-liquids have been continually gaining ground during the last three years to the detriment of freebase liquids. “However, it is also interesting to point out that the average nicotine strength of nicotine salts is slowly going down,” he said.

Fruit flavors are also steadily rising in the U.S. market, according to Wangüemert. He said that fruit e-liquids, dessert and candy flavors all consume the Top 5 positions in flavors for e-liquid sales in 2020. “For the fruit category, which is mainly tropical fruits, mainly mango, are the ones helping the most in the growth of that category,” he said, adding that beverage flavors are also growing quickly, with lemonades experiencing a substantial amount of growth. “This might also be linked to the popularity of fruits, as lemonades are likely to contain them,” he explained.

Looking at tobacco and menthol flavors, Wangüemert explained that e-liquids containing tobacco generally have tobacco as the main flavor. However, menthol is much more popular as a complement to other flavors, such as fruit.

“Only 13 percent of the products that contain menthol have menthol as the main flavor. But [for] the other 87 percent, menthol is a complement or a cooling agent, being particularly popular in the fruit category,” he said. “Of course, these 87 percent of e-liquids that contain menthol that do not have it as the main flavor are more subject to potential bans than menthol-only flavors, which have been already excluded. However, our 2019 vape shop survey points out that menthol and tobacco represent just a small percentage of vape store revenues, meaning that flavor bans at the state level or even the consequences of the PMTA might strongly reduce their income and the vaping market in general as the offerings and variety of e-liquids were strongly reduced.”

Also speaking during Vape Live, Yael Ossowski, deputy director for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a consumer advocacy group, said that flavor bans in many U.S. states have had a major impact on the growth of the vapor market. States with strict flavor bans have seen major declines, with many vapers in those states returning to combustible products.

This prompted his organization to rank states by vaping regulations and the impact those regulations had on the vapor market. The group looked at how all 50 states confronted flavor restrictions, taxes and whether the state allowed for online sales. The CCC gave each state a number of points depending upon how much consumers were subject to the criteria. States that scored between 0–10 points received an F, 11–20 points received a C and 21–30 points received an A.

The states best suited for vaping were colored green on the corresponding chart while the worst states were colored red and middle-ground states were colored yellow. “For green states, we’ve got South Carolina, Georgia; we’ve got Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Texas and Oregon. You’ll notice, obviously, the red states, the places where we’re dealing with partial flavor bans, high taxes, shipping restrictions, there’s six of them.

Places like California, New York. You have New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Illinois,” said Ossowski.  “Now we have our states in yellow. These are places that had a flavor ban in the past, and perhaps they’ve gotten rid of it, or it has not yet come into force. You have some taxation. It’s probably a bit more moderate than definitely those red states. And it has fewer shipping restrictions. People are able to order their vaping products online.”

One of the worst states, New York, has a tax rate of 20 percent of the retail price. Online sales are banned and all flavored products, except tobacco and menthol, are banned. These states, with low rankings, are also prone to other negatives for the vapor market, such as a growing black market, according to Ossowski.

California also has a statewide ban that is supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. California also has several cities, such as San Francisco, that have banned vapor products entirely. It should be noted that, in California, flavor bans typically are only focused on nicotine vapor products, not marijuana vapor products. This is especially puzzling since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the EVALI lung disease scare was caused by black market marijuana vapor products, not nicotine products.

“There is a lot of work that has been done by some very enterprising young journalists that kind of details everything with the black market when it comes to flavored vaping products. And that’s only just now burgeoning up in New York,” Ossowski explained. “There could be a lot more on this. We’re going to see. There’s not the biggest mainstream coverage on this.”

One of the main reasons that the CCC compiled the data and ranked the states is that the consumer group doesn’t want other states to follow behind states like California and Illinois by banning or restricting flavored vapor products. Ossowski said that these bans are detrimental to public health.

“It’s very dangerous. And in a way, by making it more expensive and pushing people often to the illegal market, not only are you seeing your price go higher, you’re also making it more difficult for people to acquire the products that they have transitioned away from tobacco to use. And we thought we’d actually be saving their lives and improving their lives. But what we see more often than not is that legislators make it harder,” he said. “They make it more difficult, and they actually put way more cumbersome barriers in the way so that you and I cannot access those products. We really do need to concentrate on laws, on policies, on studies, on figuring out who are the legislative champions that we can turn to in state legislatures or in the federal bureaucracy to be able to ensure that we have better laws that will enable harm reduction, that will enable us to continue to have vaping products for sale.”

Originally published here.

Let’s be realistic about new digital regulations

Today, the European Commission will present a regulatory framework that will determine the future of the European digital economy for the years to come.

Both the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act aim to prevent and punish anti-competitive behaviours across digital platforms, in particular, those with at least 45 million users. Although that is indeed a historic moment for EU digital policy, it is expected that the very nature of these new regulations will be punitive and its unintended consequences might curb innovation instead of enhancing it.

The European Commission’s goal to keep big tech giants at bay has become obvious long ago when antitrust investigations into Facebook and Amazon started to build up. The witchhunt after anti-competitive actions has been the result of the European Union’s lack of knowledge about these new platforms and how their supply chains operate.

Digital Markets Act will attempt to solve this problem through a series of ex-ante restrictions that will tell big platforms how to behave and by introducing a new competition tool.

Several factors need to be considered in order for these developments to be fair and less damaging than it seems at first glance. First, ex ante regulations should be limited to large online platforms that qualify as gatekeepers and shouldn’t discriminate between them. However, keeping in mind, that the world of technology is constantly evolving and the economy as such is going to change, it is crucial that ex-ante regulations are concise and straightforward, and flexible.

A smart approach would be to strike a balance between the need to safeguard competition and remaining liberal enough to not block innovation. A code of conduct that would lay out specific blacklisted practices without making the costs of compliance excessively high for gatekeepers and preserving consumer choice might be as close as we can ever get to a compromise.

The European Union’s digital lag is well-known, and if we put even more brakes on our digital economy, we might find ourselves in the back of the queue for economic wellbeing. The key narrative of the EU digital reform shouldn’t be “let’s punish the big tech for its success” but rather “let’s create the favourable conditions for smaller enterprises”. Granting the Commission large-scale investigation powers would be an extremely dangerous move that will likely only increase the number of costly antitrust proceedings without boosting innovation.

Contrary to widely spread belief, lock-ins are all too often a conscious choice made by consumers in the absence of a viable alternative. Therefore, we should make it easier for small business to enter and for the existing ones to operate on equal terms with the more successful ones. We need a digital single market that can meet the needs of
European consumers without any external interference.

Although transparency is equally important, its pursuits shouldn’t lead us beyond the pale and turn the Commission into an honesty tribunal. The very fact that digital platforms bring value to Europeans is a clear indication that they do something right,and that should be enough for the Commission to form its judgment. Unmatched demand for digital services, including those provided by the big tech, speaks for itself.

The best way to approach today’s presentation of the new digital framework is to be realistic about its unintended consequences. Our goal should be innovation, not punishment.

Originally published here.

Illicit trade in pesticides is booming: why?

If the legal market cannot ensure farmers are able to buy pesticides to protect their crops from various diseases, then the black market fills the gap.

Pesticides are some of the most regulated products in the world. At the same time, if illegal pesticide producers were a single company they would be the 4th largest company in value in the world. Overregulating pesticides doesn’t decrease demand for them. In 2018, the European Union Intellectual Property Office stated that €1.3 billion are lost every year in Europe due to fake pesticides. This translates to €299 million and 500 jobs lost per year in Germany, €240 million and 500 jobs each year lost in France, and €185 million and 270 jobs lost annually in Italy.

Over the period 2011-2018, the sales of pesticides remained stable at around 360 million kilograms per year in the EU. In France, for example, despite the government’s ambition to drive down the use of pesticides, demand for pesticides have risen considerably in the past years. In Poland, the sale of pesticides in Poland in 2016 increased by 12.3 per cent compared to 2011. What this tells us is that as long as that overregulating pesticides only boosts illicit trade.

A quick look at the role of pesticides in farming explains why demand for them persists. Pesticides are instrumental in helping farmers prevent and/or manage pests such as weeds, insects, and plant pathogens. Substantial increases in yields recorded over the past 80 years can be mainly attributed to the use of pesticides. Without pesticides, crop losses would be between 50-80 per cent. Between 1950 and today, the world’s population grew between 1% and 2% each year, and to ensure it can be fed, we have to utilise natural resources in a smart way, and that is what pesticides allow us to do.

However, since the health of consumers is of paramount importance, pesticides need to undergo the necessary rigorous safety assessments by food safety authorities. The main danger associated with counterfeit pesticides – now estimated to represent 14% of the European crop protection – is that they go unchecked thereby endangering the lives of European consumers. Untested products can also lead to considerable harvest lost, resulting in less food security for European consumers.

When it comes to illicit trade in any product, not just pesticides, increasing the customs control and penalty for counterfeiting activities seems like a straightforward solution. Neither of these can fully fix is the issue which, however, doesn’t undermine their significance as a tool to tackle illicit trade. Although we as a society can all agree that fighting illicit pesticides that pose threat to our health should be our priority, very few crimes are taken to courts. For example, in Slovenia, 27,1 tons of illegal pesticides have been detected and seized since 2003 according to the Financial Administration, and yet not a single court case was initiated. In Belgium and Italy, the situation isn’t any better. The justice system should take illicit trade more seriously.

Along with increasing the punishment for illicit trade, it is also necessary to re-evaluate, conjointly with farmers associations the approval of these substances. If outlawing some chemical substance on a member state or the EU level leads to a spike in illegal trade, then a comprehensive discussion to find a solution that works for consumers and producers has to take place. Demand for pesticides won’t simply go away, and we cannot solve the problem of booming illicit trade by turning a blind eye to this fact. We need a compromise to protect the wellbeing of European consumers.

Originally published here.

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.

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