Democrats are committed to fixing issues with the renegotiated NAFTA

Greg Nash

The U.S. House of Representatives has been busy doing the people’s work, passing 387 bills to date addressing American’s greatest challenges. Sadly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has killed them all, celebrating his role as a “Grim Reaper” against efforts to decrease skyrocketing prescription drug prices, to reduce gun violence, and more.

Now, suddenly, Leader McConnell says we must enact President Trump’s re-negotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But, NAFTA is too important to not get done right.

Since the re-negotiated NAFTA was announced late last year, congressional Democrats have urged the administration to remove terms that would lock in high medicines prices and to close loopholes in the new pact’s labor and environmental provisions and strengthen enforcement to counter NAFTA’s ongoing job outsourcing. We also have urged the administration to work with Mexico so that a revised pact translates into improvements on the ground.

That Democrats are committed to fixing NAFTA is evidenced by the past year of open and respectful dialogue with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to achieve these changes.

The House Democratic Caucus has never been more united on trade. We all want to fix NAFTA. We recognize that means the administration must eliminate the new giveaways to Big Pharma that make the new deal worse than the original NAFTA, strengthen labor and environmental standards and enforcement, and secure progress in Mexico on needed changes to accomplish the core mission of fixing NAFTA’s ongoing damage.

This gave President Trump a clear path to enacting a revised NAFTA despite his repeated provocations on other issues. Yet, for most of this last year, the administration refused to change a single word in last year’s text, even though the last four U.S. trade pacts the Congress enacted all required text changes after they were signed to achieve a majority.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer worked to ensure that renegotiations addressed some of the NAFTA issues of long concern to Democrats. The 2018 election meant Democratic support is necessary to enact the agreement. And in contrast to past pacts, congressional Democrats, unions and consumer groups did not launch a campaign to stop the deal. Instead, we focused on improvements necessary for a new deal to actually counter some of NAFTA’s original sins and not add new ones, namely giving new monopoly powers to Big Pharma to charge consumers more for their medicines.

The text that President Trump signed obligates NAFTA countries to guarantee extended monopoly rights for pharmaceutical firms so they can block the generic competition that reduces drug prices. These new terms—which were not included in past pacts and that would undermine Democrats’ mission to make medicines affordable for all Americans—are a non-starter.

But the core goal of re-negotiating NAFTA is to effectively fix the incentives to outsource jobs and pollution.

In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission is using the same methodology it employed to project gains from the original NAFTA. Its official assessment of the re-negotiated NAFTA found no economic gains for the United States. Only by including limits on consumer Internet and e-commerce protections did the ITC find a fraction of a percent of gains in GDP, employment, and wages.

Nor would the re-negotiated NAFTA fix U.S. farmers’ market access lost due to President Trump’s trade policies or stop future erratic and unpredictable trade actions from the president. Months after he signed his re-negotiated NAFTA, the president threatened to impose new tariffs on all Mexican imports for immigration-related reasons. The re-negotiated NAFTA would not make a dent in replacing the $15 billion in agriculture exports markets lost to tariffs to China in the past year, either.

It is possible for this Congress to rise above the current Republican partisan gridlock and defeat the influence of pharmaceutical companies to pass an amended NAFTA that works for working people and members of the Congress.

DeLauro represents Connecticut’s 3rd District.

Tags Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Robert Lighthizer

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