Washington D.C. - Rear Admiral Peter Brown, White House Representative for Puerto Rico’s Disaster Recovery, will arrive in San Juan today to hold meetings focused on the island’s potential to be included in the federal government’s efforts to expand pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing in the U.S.
Brown, Commander of the Seventh Coast Guard, who is now assigned to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, will arrive amid what is expected to be the conclusion of the chaotic New Progressive Party (PNP) and Popular Democratic Party (PPD) primary elections.
He has a 10-day agenda ahead.
Tomorrow (Monday), Brown starts with a meeting with Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced and her team, hours after - if things work as expected at the State Elections Commission (SEC) – the island will know who the PNP and PPD candidates for governor for the November 3 elections are.
"It's a previously scheduled trip. I treat politics like the weather. Sometimes it's turbulent, but I can't choose the climate to operate. I have to get on with my job," Brown said in an interview with El Nuevo Día.
The Trump administration representative said it is "disappointing" that primary elections were tarnished by the chaos of not having the ballots in the voting centers on time last Sunday and that he is confident that the process will work well today.
Brown denied that the White House wanted to positively influence Vázquez Garced's candidacy for governor, as some may have interpreted it.
"I understand that the White House has not endorsed any particular candidate. My job is to build the best relationship possible with the governor and the government of Puerto Rico. Right now that is Governor Vázquez, and in a few months there can be another governor and team and I will work to have the best possible relationship with them too," he said.
Brown, along with representatives from the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP), the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) - the development bank for international projects, and more recently also for domestic initiatives - and from the Department of Defense, will visit nearly a dozen pharmaceutical companies -including the Aguadilla technology corridor- as part of the efforts to strengthen the U.S. government's medical supply chain in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic-
Washington Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González - who will also attend the meetings - said the delegation, which includes Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) executives, will visit pharmaceutical companies like Glaxo and Pfizer; biotechnology companies such as Copan, and technological equipment manufacturers such as Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, and Pratt & Whitney between Tuesday and Thursday.
They have also scheduled a visit to the Science, Technology and Research Trust, a round table, a visit to the water infrastructure central area, and a meeting on Friday with environmental agencies, González explained.
Brown said that, in addition to the executive order approved by President Trump to encourage pharmaceutical manufacturing in the U.S., the White House is also considering other legislation that can directly help the island, such as a bill by Commissioner González and Republican Senator Marco Rubio (Florida) to grant tax credits to pharmaceutical companies that invest in economically depressed areas.
However, he added they are also analyzing a bill by Virgin Islands delegate, Democrat Stacey Plaskett, and Republican Senator Roger Wicker (Mississippi) - which has been promoted by former Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá - seeking to achieve a tax exemption on the new intellectual property tax for Controlled Foreign Corporations (CFCs).
There are several other measures in Congress, including one by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.), which seeks to provide credit for medical equipment manufacturing, and was included in the measures to boost the economy promoted by the Senate majority leadership.
"It's probably too early to anticipate which one will be favored," Brown said, but he added that DFC loans will be available domestically, not just for potential drug or medical device production, but for the entire supply chain, including infrastructure projects.
This week Brown visited a training center for Quanta workers, in Florida, which is part of Luma Energy, the consortium selected to manage the transmission and distribution systems of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) in 2021.
Although former PREPA CEO José Ortiz ruled out that any elected official in Puerto Rico would think of nuclear energy as an alternative within the process of transforming the island’s power grid, Brown said: “the position of the federal government is that all alternatives should be considered.”