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Madam Speaker, no more delay on US-Mexico-Canada free trade deal

Greg Nash

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is running out of excuses for delaying a vote on the United States Canada Mexico Trade Agreement. After more than a year of debating, this bill would pass with bipartisan support in Congress, and Washington could hold a rare and joyous bill signing ceremony as a gift to the American people a few days before Christmas this month.

The benefits of USMCA are well established and generally accepted by scholars on both sides of the political aisle. It could increase American jobs by some 170,000 and increase economic growth by 0.35 percent over several years when implemented, according to the International Trade Commission. It could be a boon for both Mexico and Canada. This deal would also set the stage for additional free trade agreements to come, for example, with Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Finally, it would strengthen the United States as Washington labors to deliver a win in the ongoing trade disputes with China, as the deal would continue to isolate China as the bad actor on the international scene.

Both parties could take political credit for this victory. Pelosi has declared that she wants to get USMCA done and bring it to a vote, but she faces resistance from some in her caucus who do not want to hand any victory to Trump, even if the deal is good for workers, farmers, and manufacturers in their own districts. Pelosi says she wants better protections for union workers, which this modernized version of the North American Free Trade Agreement already offers, although I oppose some of those provisions.

Even worse is that some Democrats want to strip the deal of important intellectual property rights protections for American pharmaceuticals. These provisions require Mexico and Canada to honor newly negotiated standards for data exclusivity rights on biologics developed by American drug companies. This was a hard won victory in negotiations secured by United States trade representative Robert Lighthizer. This provision of the trade law should be celebrated and preserved, as it benefits American companies and protects our often abused intellectual property rights.

Whose side is Pelosi on here? Does she stand for the United States or for Mexico? The agreement would produce a broad range of benefits for Americans. It could lead to consumers spending less at the pharmacy, something politicians of all ideological stripes are keen to deliver. Perhaps most critically, the agreement would help ensure that the United States will remain a leader in pharmaceutical and biotechnology innovation.

Democrats who are seeking to reduce the intellectual property rights for lifesaving drugs and vaccines in the United States and abroad will simply delay or even stunt the introduction of such drugs to the market. Such a move would discourage small startups that engage in the riskiest efforts to develop innovative therapies at the cutting edge of science. Many of our complaints with China and other trading partners center around the abuse of patent rights. It makes no sense to weaken the patent rights of American companies that conduct business in Mexico and Canada.

One concern is that if the agreement does not pass before Christmas, it will be much less likely to get done in 2020 when election year politics may slam the door on legislative accomplishments. The patriotic and courageous thing for Pelosi to do is to bring USMCA to a vote on the House floor now. She could take some deserved credit for the victory. Madam Speaker, save the partisan combat on Capitol Hill for next year.

Stephen Moore is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He served as an adviser to the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. His latest book with Arthur Laffer is “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy.”

Tags Canada Congress Donald Trump Government Mexico Nancy Pelosi Trade

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