The USMCA is an opportunity to keep our promises to working Americans
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Last month, I led my freshman colleagues in the House of Representatives, alongside Reps. Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinThe USMCA is an opportunity to keep our promises to working Americans Michigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Michigan House Democrats plan vigil for Iraqi man who died after deportation MORE (D-Mich.) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), in urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to make a few key changes to the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) that would fulfill our promise to American workers to keep jobs in the United States – and  fulfill our promise to American families to lower prescription drug prices.

In the Greater Lehigh Valley, in Pennsylvania, and across the country, we’ve seen the heights our economy can reach when workers stand together, when we put American jobs first and we give our businesses the opportunity to thrive.

But we’ve also seen what happens when trade policy doesn’t prioritize American workers. Unfair trade deals ship our jobs overseas and encourage exploitative labor practices abroad – and misguided trade policies, like tariffs, cause crop prices to plummet and our farmers pay the price.

For example, we witnessed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cause a hemorrhage of jobs from the United States – resulting in the outsourcing of 1 million American jobs to Mexico every week. Pennsylvania alone has had a net loss of almost 315,000 manufacturing jobs since the 1994 NAFTA and 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements went into effect.

For this reason, I have long advocated for the renegotiation of NAFTA, and I commend USTR Lighthizer for taking on this challenge and for his efforts to address a number of the problems with NAFTA in the USMCA.

I’ve heard from the manufacturers and workers in my district, and I know how important it is that we get a deal on the books. This new deal is an opportunity to right the wrongs of NAFTA and keep our promise to keep good jobs right here in the United States. That’s why I fully agree with the labor community and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka when he says we want to get to yes on the USMCA. But as it stands, this deal needs critical improvements before it is ratified.

While the USMCA is an improvement over NAFTA, its labor terms and their enforcement mechanisms are too weak to stop American job loss or downward pressure on wages. As a result, we have no assurances that the USMCA will stop NAFTA’s ongoing job outsourcing or that American companies won’t continue to move jobs to Mexico where they can pay their workers less than $2 an hour.

For example, AT&T is opening a new 1,000-person call center in Mexico where workers will be paid less than $2 per hour. Mondelez relocated production of iconic bakery goods like the Nabisco Oreo from Chicago and Philadelphia to Mexico where some workers make less than a dollar an hour and none make more than $2.

We’ve heard a fair amount about the need for robust enforcement of stronger labor standards in a new deal. But we haven’t heard enough about the USMCA’s effect on prescription drug prices. Most of the freshman members of Congress promised on the campaign trail to do everything we could to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The USMCA, as currently drafted, would instead lock in high prescription drug prices by including new monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations that would allow them to block competition from more affordable generic brands and would increase protections for Big Pharma in Canada and Mexico. Interestingly, I learned in meeting with a Canadian foreign minister that these protections were not something that they asked for.

In the House, we have made it a top priority to make it easier for generics to come to the market, because it is a key way to lower the cost of medicine – yet this deal would reverse that progress and undermine our efforts to make prescription drugs more affordable. That’s why pharmaceutical companies are spending money to force the USMCA through Congress as-is – to protect their bottom line.

I hear from constituents on a near-daily basis that the price of prescription drugs is unsustainable. Parents of children with diabetes are struggling to afford insulin – the price of which has risen 500 percent in the last 14 years, despite no changes to the formula or ingredients. The high prices of diabetes drugs has led some diabetes patients to ration or stop taking their medications, which can result in serious health complications and even death. Insulin is the most glaring example, but many routine medications are similarly unaffordable.

There is no doubt that the skyrocketing cost of life-saving drugs is a crisis in this country, and we cannot support a new trade deal that will perpetuate this crisis.

If this new NAFTA doesn’t include changes that will prevent our jobs from being shipped overseas, it’s not an improvement from the old NAFTA. And if this deal precludes Congress from being able to lower prescription drug prices, it will do more to harm American families than help.

On the campaign trail, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE and I both promised the American people that we’d do everything we can to keep jobs right here in the United States, and that we’d do everything we can to help working families who have felt left behind by unfair trade deals. We both also promised to get to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. I urge the president to work with me and work with Congress to improve this deal and keep our promise to working Pennsylvanians.

Wild is a member of the Education and Labor Committee. She represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District.