Can we still be friends?


Prof. Dr. Andrew Ullmann MdB, Chairman of the FDP Parliamentary Group in the Health Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Subcommittee on Global Health and Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Group USA, born in L.A., USA

Berlin, 22 July 2021.

Dear Readers,

the relationship with the US is never purely technical or pragmatic or even reasonable. It is always emotional as well. So it is not surprising that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the US has no "better friend in the world than Germany". Across Donald Trump's administration, things have looked very different. Estrangement, divisiveness, on the verge of divorce in the War of the Roses. Fortunately President Joe Biden turned his attention back to Europe and above all to Germany in a flash.

But the closeness should not make us overlook the problems that exist in this now rekindled and warm friendship: How do we deal with China? What will become of Nord Stream 2? What path do we take together on climate change? When will travellers from the EU once again be treated the same as travellers from the USA? What about punitive tariffs? What about the NATO defence budget? How do we act on global health? These are all questions to which a future federal government - hopefully with liberal participation - will have to find answers.

However, I would like to focus on one positive aspect: cooperation in healthcare policy. Even before the end of Donald Trump's unspeakable presidency, the companies BioNTech and Pfizer showed what German-American partnerships are capable of. Without the support of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin's company would not have had the opportunity to test, produce and even deliver their sensational development in such a short time. It was a masterpiece.

A masterpiece that would probably not have come about without patent protection. And this shows that the economic players in transatlantic relations are currently even closer to each other than the political ones. It is incomprehensible that Joe Biden's government is calling for the abolition of patent protection. This decision looks as if Biden is obsessively trying to do everything differently from Donald Trump and in the process forgetting the American soul and its self-image. It's just as well that Germany and the EU refuse to go along with this deadly step.

However, in the future health policy will take place globally more than ever and joint action is inevitable. Neither vaccine nationalism nor international health socialism can be solutions. To prepare the world for future health crises, we need multilateral and economic cooperation, research exchange and information transparency. We need a global and reliable surveillance system, a strengthening of the International Health Regulations, sustainable funding for pandemic prevention and response, and reform of the World Health Organization. We need both the US and China for this. We can therefore count ourselves lucky that the US is back in the WHO boat. However, we will only move the boat forward if we do not stop at declarations of friendship, but row together in the same direction.