Is the Russia crisis also a crisis for medical technology?

Interview with Jennifer Goldenstede, head of department Foreign Trade and Export Promotion at SPECTARIS e.V., Association for Medical Technology

The Ukrainian political turmoil has been keeping the world in suspense since 2013. It has also caused growing tensions between Russia on the one hand and the U.S. and EU on the other hand. Both sides try to pressure each other with sanctions against individuals, international financial transactions and whole industry branches.


Photo: Smiling young woman with long brown hair - Jennifer Goldenstede; Copyright: SPECTARIS e.V.

Jennifer Goldenstede; ©SPECTARIS e.V.

In the interview with, Jennifer Goldenstede talks about exports of medical technology to Russia and explains the trade sanctions' impact on the industry.

Miss Goldenstede, how important are medical technology imports from the U.S. and the EU for Russia?

Jennifer Goldenstede: In recent years, they had a high significance, but this has changed now. One example is the German exports to Russia. From 2010-2012 there has been a considerable increase of more than 30 percent each year, reaching almost 70 percent in 2012. In 2013 and 2014 those figures decreased with a decline of around 25 to 30 percent each year. In the first half of 2014 the export volume was still at 292 million Euros, in the first half of 2015 the volume was at 226 million Euros. This means a decline of 23 percent.

There currently are economic as well as travel sanctions between the U.S. and the EU on one side and Russia on the other side. What influence do these have on the manufacturers of medical technology?

Goldenstede: The economic sanctions are not the foremost problem for the industry – this would be the import substitutions. The Russian government has decided that those manufacturers of medical technology should be preferred in public government tenders, which really provide added value within the Eurasian Economic Union. There are lists which indicate for which goods and expendable materials the Russian import quota should be lowered more and more. Of course Russian companies are the ones which profit most from this. Foreign companies first have to create added value locally to be able to participate in those tenders.

Thus, these sanctions are only consequently an obstacle for companies that want to export to Russia: If a national procurement is not possible, the Russian authorities first check if they can purchase the products from countries that do not sanction Russia.
Graphic: Bridge that connects EU and Russia; Copyright: Kharchenko

Building bridges: Industry associations can work to maintain and to promote international trade relations in difficult times; © Alexander Kharchenko

How can a trade association like SPECTARIS again promote cooperation between these countries?

Goldenstede: We are strongly committed to ensuring that foreign trade fairs such as the ZDRAVOOKHRANENIYE in Moscow can continue to take place. There already were some cancellations out of political reasons in the foreign trade fair program. However, these have not yet affected the medical technology industry.

Other instruments that we can use are for example the market development program of the Federal Ministry of Economics, which includes visits of delegations to the country. We have proposed, inter alia, Russia as a destination country. However, it is still unclear whether this will be implemented.

Lastly, the information transfer to the member companies is very important. They need to know what is happening in Russia, so they can be prepared and make informed decisions about their business there.
Photo: Timo Roth; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

The interview was conducted by Timo Roth and translated from German by Daniel Stöter.