Trade and Health Office

Emily Bleimund, JD, MA
Director, Trade and Health Office
Office of Global Affairs
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Phone: (202) 690-6174, (202)-260-0399

OGA’s Trade and Health Office provides expertise to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on health-related trade issues and represents HHS in the development of U.S. trade policy. The intersection of global health and international trade is a growing area, with important implications for patients and consumers around the world. We work to ensure that public health is represented in trade discussions on a global level, including at the World Trade Organization (WTO)  and the World Health Organization (WHO), in order to create a safer, healthier world.

What We Do: Examples of Our Work

The Trade and Health Office portfolio includes:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response

The Trade and Health Office has played a multifaceted role in HHS’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Key projects related to the pandemic response have included participation in interagency efforts to rapidly expand manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines; facilitating the sharing of vaccine doses with other countries both bilaterally and through the COVAX Facility; tracking and facilitating global access to COVID-19 tools including vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics; reviewing and providing guidance on U.S. tariff policies for COVID-19 related products and discussions around intellectual property for COVID-19 products at the World Trade Organization; and coordinating with a number of partners globally on a wide range of other issues.  In addition, the Trade and Health Office is also playing a central role in the negotiation of a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response at the World Health Organization, where lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed and applied toward improving global coordination and collaboration in the future.

Trade and Economic Agreements and Partnerships

The Trade and Health Office has been actively involved in the negotiation of free trade agreements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and also various proposed initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. These types of agreements and initiatives can include various issues that can impact public health, such as pharmaceutical and medical device regulation, intellectual property, food safety, tobacco control, and pharmaceutical pricing and reimbursement, investment, and intellectual property, among others. The Office helps to ensure that U.S. negotiating positions are in line with U.S. policies, and do not conflict with domestic laws or practices.

Intellectual Property Issues

The Trade and Health Office provides guidance on health-related intellectual property issues. For example, the office represents HHS on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 subcommittee, which researches and drafts the annual Special 301 Report – a report that lists the countries that do not offer sufficient protection of intellectual property (IP) or market access for IP-intensive industries. We also work closely with USTR and other U.S. agencies on bilateral IP issues related to medical products, and provide guidance within HHS and the U.S. government on issues related to compulsory licensing, patentability standards, and multilateral discussions and reports on IP and access to medical products. This work includes following the work of the WTO Committee on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Committee) and providing input on U.S. positions at TRIPS Committee meetings.

Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Regulation and Pricing

The Trade and Health Office provides guidance on pharmaceutical and medical devices regulatory issues, such as marketing approval policies, as well as pricing and reimbursement policies. The Office also closely follows pharmaceutical pricing discussions in international organizations, including the WHO, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and others.

Nutrition and Tobacco Control

The Trade and Health Office provides guidance on trade-related aspects of nutrition and tobacco control policies, such as marketing, labeling, packaging, and other regulatory policies. The Office also closely follows international meetings on these issues, including meetings of the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, and coordinates with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to ensure global and domestic messages are aligned.

Climate Change and Other Environmental Issues

In light of the many intersections between environmental issues, human health, and trade policy, the Trade and Health Office represents HHS equities on trade-related climate change and other environmental issues, such as plastics packaging and carbon emissions regulation, at the WTO and the United Nations.

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