Brussels, 28 May 2004
In a message to ministers and senior industrialists, Ireland's Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney, has said that there is little point in feeling uneasy about the movement of investment to lower-cost locations in the Far East when the reason for this shift is the structure of EU economies.
'Europe is not at the mercy of competition from lower-cost locations. It is very much the master of its own destiny,' said Ms Harney. 'What is required is better and lighter regulation of industry and business, particularly for those sectors operating in a global market place where competition is intense.'
Ms Harney also warned that Europe will pay a heavy price in terms of lost employment and reduced economic activity if the drop in research investment by the pharmaceutical industry in the EU is allowed to continue unchecked.
'The US is now the leading inventor of new medicines. Of the top ten worldwide products in 2002, eight originated in the US, while the remaining two were from Europe,' said the minister. Equally alarming is the fact that between 1998 and 2000, some 70 per cent of the sales of new medicines launched on the world market were made in the US, compared to only 18 per cent in Europe.
Ms Harney reiterated that European leaders will have to display greater political will in order to make the difficult decisions required to achieve the Lisbon objective of making Europe the world's most competitive economy by 2010.
As highlighted by Ms Harney, Ireland has identified the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sectors as priorities, and is now one of the top ten exporters of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals in the world. This achievement is all the more impressive when one takes note of the fact that this sector was almost non-existent in Ireland 30 years ago
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