|U.S. VP Joe Biden - looking out for Colombia?|
Cheap ethanol fuel for Colombia? The U.S. government is all for that one.
But as far as inexpensive generic medicines go - well, they could threaten Colombians' health.
Those are some of the messages in a recent letter from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to Colombian Pres. Juan Manuel Santos. The U.S. government's concern for Colombians' health and well-being would be much more moving if the sentiments weren't also in the U.S.'s economic interests, as well as Washington's interpretation of U.S.-Colombian free trade agreements.
|Biden wants old dirty trucks junked, to open |
the borders to truck imports from the States.
Colombians' lungs. But it also just so happens that Colombian law also puts roadblocks in the way of U.S. truck exports to Colombia. Colombian law requires the
From the press accounts about Biden's letter (I haven't been able to find the original online), it's not clear whether Biden wants Colombia to junk the truck-junking law as an obstacle to free trade, or whether he wants Colombia to actually carry it out in order to open the gates to more truck imports.
|A mural in the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá shows a fat American eating Colombia's industries and benefits.|
|Sugar cane harvesting. Cane ethanol is much more |
environmentally sound than U.S. corn ethanol.
A charitable view would be that Biden worries about Colombia's ethanol supply out of concerns about health and the environment. (Ethanol, made from organic materials,is mixed into gasoline to supposedly reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.) But ethanol's pollution impacts are questionable - mixed into gasoline it reduces particulate production and carbon monoxide pollution, but in smoggy cities it can increase harmful ozone pollution.
Regarding global warming gases, ethanol's impacts are probably less positive. Researchers debate
|Generic medicines are much cheaper -|
and less profitable for corporations.
Finally, Biden doesn't approve of Colombia's plans to accelerate approval of some 'bio-similar' versions of 'biotechnological' medicines, which are created from living tissues, after the original medicines' patents have expired. Such plans infuriate big pharmaceutical companies, many of which are based in the U.S. and charge high prices for the original medicines.
While it is certainly true that companies have a right to recover their research and marketing investments, and that pharmaceutical companies lose some income to generic substitutes of their products, it's also true that expensive medicines are out of the reach of most Colombians, and that these medicines' costs are bankrupting Colombia's healthcare system.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours