International Trade: Beyond the Controversy and into Radiology

International Trade: Beyond the Controversy and into Radiology

This piece was originally published in the December 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Andrew Northup, Director, Global Affairs, MITA

The term “international trade” often evokes extreme political talking points: it is either very good, as it grows the economy and creates new jobs, or it’s very bad, as it sends jobs overseas and leaving American workers in the dust. Of course, international trade is much more complex than that. It touches every industry, often in ways we seldom consider.

The Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance (MITA), a division of NEMA, is concerned with the business of imaging equipment manufacturers and the quality of patient care—both of which are affected by international trade.

Trade extends beyond components that are produced in one country and exported to another for final assembly and product sales. It encompasses less-tangible goods and services, such as equipment service performed in other countries; cross-border data flows for monitoring and reporting, as well as for big data collection and analysis; and financial transactions with foreign entities for capital investments.

Worldwide networks for supply chain and production, sales, and distribution of products and services—including regulatory surveillance, product takebacks, and refurbishment—all depend on the unencumbered flow of products, services, and data between countries.

MITA’s goal is to make the global environment work for its member companies. It takes a wide-ranging approach to improving the global business environment by

  • enabling a free flow of trade between countries;
  • reducing or eliminating tariffs;
  • removing technical barriers to trade such as unnecessary and costly requirements;
  • streamlining customs procedures so products can get to customers more quickly; and
  • ensuring that medical imaging manufacturers are not severely impacted by changing global policies.

For example, MITA has worked proactively with industry and government partners to include medical imaging equipment in the World Trade Organization Information Technology Agreement. With current tariffs of around eight percent on imaging equipment, $40,000 in taxes is assessed on a $500,000 computed tomography (CT) scanner the minute it arrives at customs overseas. That drives up the cost to foreign customers, resulting in lost sales. Eliminating tariffs instantly makes higher-end, more advanced equipment dramatically more affordable; manufacturers, health systems, and patients all win.

We’ve won concessions in trade agreements to harmonize medical device regulations, reform customs policy to reduce backlogs and streamline procedures, and remove protectionist non-tariff barriers that hinder growth and access to foreign markets.

Threats to international trade go beyond the political scaremongering. Through DITTA (the global Diagnostic Imaging, Healthcare IT, and Radiation Therapy Trade Association), a network of partners serve as the global voice of the medical imaging industry. MITA leads DITTA efforts to share intelligence and monitor developments around the world, and formulate advocacy to advance member interest. MITA’s advocacy has successfully removed threats to member business and supply chains posed by well-intentioned expansions to the United Nation’s Basel Convention and the World Health Organization’s 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

MITA understands that its members depend on international trade in many ways. Its committees and sections are dedicated to making trade work for medical imaging equipment manufacturers, customers, and patients alike.

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