‘Pro business’ is best guess when looking at character of Trump administration

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: donaldjtrump.com
Picture: donaldjtrump.com

Related tags Food and drug administration

Donald Trump’s historic victory leaves dietary supplement industry observers wrestling with the question of what will be the character of his administration, when the candidate himself has taken so many positions, some of which match standard conservative views and others that seemingly came out of left field.

The speculation at the moment is that his administration will mirror standard Republican attitudes toward business, with a restrained view toward regulation. Much of that will depend on who Trump chooses as Cabinet appointees and close advisers.  Trump himself, except for lending his name to a brief foray into the dietary supplement business with his Trump Network multi level marketing organization, has in the past had little connection to the supplements industry.

Putting a brake on regulation

“When we were speculating about what the world would look like with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as President, there was a general feeling that a Trump presidency would be against over-regulation, and against the idea of trying to legislate through guidance documents,”​ Mike Greene, senior vice president of government relations of the Council for Responsible Nutrition told NutraIngredients-USA. 

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“With Clinton you saw a candidate who was very knowledgeable about the issues; Trump was not as well versed. We surmised that that would mean as we have seen with other candidates in that position in the past that he would surround himself with qualified people,” ​he said. 

Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, said that the situation was so unprecedented that he was loathe to speculate on what Trump might do once he’s sworn in as President.

“I for one have no sense going forward if anything will look like it used to. What will the relationship between the White House and Congress look like?  The relationships with foreign countries?  With Wall Street?  I don’t really have a sense of where this is going to go,” ​he said.

Trump’s quirks might be manifest, but Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association said it’s important to keep in mind what the overall makeup of the government will be.

 “What does complete Republican control for the executive and legislative branches and assumed control of the judiciary mean? It’s good for industry.  What does a Republican administration typically do?  They roll back regulation pressure. A Republican legislature will not move more aggressively in the direction of more regulation for any industry,” ​McGuffinsaid. 

McGuffin noted that Trump had taken a broad swipe at the Food and Drug Administration in mid September when a posting on his website talked about slashing the authority of what he called the “FDA Food Police.”  The position was almost immediately withdrawn, but McGuffin said it still could point toward the President-elect’s motivation.

“We should not ignore the impulse even though the document was modified after the public reaction came in, and there was a recognition of the need not to just attack the largest food safety agency in the country on which we rely for the safety of our food supply. A Trump administration is very unlikely to increase the budget of the FDA, while at the same time I think it’s very unlikely that they will undermine the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act,”​ he said.

HHS vacancy

One of the key Cabinet positions for the new administration as far as the dietary supplement industry is concerned is the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services.  That appointee will determine who the next FDA commissioner will be.  While there is precedent for a commissioner to last through successive administrations;  Dr David Kessler was appointed by the elder Bush and served for a number of years under Pres. Bill Clinton. But the smart money (if there is such a thing any more) is on a new leader at FDA being named in fairly short order.

“By and large Mr Trump as been very pro business,”​ said Dr Daniel Fabricant, president and CEO of the Natural Products Association. “Obviously we have to see who gets appointed to the Cabinet positions.”

Foremost a​mong the names being tossed around by political watchers for the HHS post is Dr. Ben Carson, once a candidate for president himself and then subsequently a Trump supporter.  Dr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, had at one time a promotional relationship with the dietary supplement multilevel marketing company Mannatech before that company became a CRN member. Dr. Carson is viewed as someone who is friendly to the notion of alternative care and self care.

 "I hope that he will be very much involved in my administration in the coming years," ​Trump has said of Dr. Carson. Surgeon General is another post mentioned when political watchers speculate about Dr. Carson’s future role. Other names that have been suggested for the HHS post include Florida governor Rick Scot and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose name has also been mentioned as a potential future Secretary of State.

Fabricant said that other vacancies that the Trump administration will be tasked with filling could also have significant impact on the dietary supplement industry.

“The other thing that is very important for the industry will be the judicial appointments. I’m not just talking about the Supreme Court vacancy, which everyone has been talking about.  In the DC District Court there are three or four appointments vacant. That was the court we would go to when I was at FDA when we had enforcement actions. It would be important to see if the people who are nominated for these positions are people who are for reasonable regulation or if they are someone who wants to regulate in an oppressive way,” ​Fabricant said.

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