The topic of trade came up during Tuesday night’s Democrat presidential debate as candidates weighed in on issues including ongoing metal tariffs, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Asked by moderator Don Lemon whether he would continue President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio said he would “have to reevaluate.”
Ryan said some tariffs are effective, but Trump has “bungled the whole thing.” He added that the tariffs amount to a tactical move by Trump and questioned whether the administration has an overarching strategy for the trade measures.
“China has a hundred-year plan, a 50-year plan, a 30-year plan, a 20-year plan,” Ryan said. “We live in a 24-hour news cycle. That spells disaster for our economy and disaster for our global policies.”
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said tariffs are a “huge mistake,” constituting the largest tax increase on U.S. consumers, hitting the middle class and “working poor” especially hard.
“When have we ever gone to war, including a trade war, without allies, friends and partners?” he asked. “As president, we will hold China accountable, but we will bring our allies and friends like the European Union to bear, and we’ll also negotiate trade deals that favor farmers and American workers and protect human rights, the environment and labor, not just here in the United States.”
The latest trade deal negotiated by the United States, the USMCA, brings NAFTA’s labor and environmental provisions into the core text of the new pact, making those provisions enforceable for the first time for all parties.
Further, the U.S. International Trade Commission in April released a report on the likely economic impacts of the USMCA that projected it would boost total annual U.S. agricultural and food exports by $2.2 billion.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a shot against the renegotiated NAFTA, arguing that its “central feature” is to “help pharmaceutical companies get longer periods of exclusivity so they can charge Canadians, Americans and Mexicans more money and make more profits.”
The pharmaceutical provisions of the 34-chapter trade agreement provide for 10 years of data exclusivity for biologics developed in North America. That is two less years than provided under U.S. law but five more years than the required period in Mexico and two more years than the required period in Canada.
One concern expressed among progressives is that USMCA will lock in 10 years as the minimum U.S. exclusivity period, thereby hampering potential legislative efforts to shorten the time frame.
Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland voiced support for TPP, noting that the U.S. would be in an “entirely different position with China” if it entered the pact.
“We can’t isolate ourselves from the world; we can’t isolate ourselves from Asia,” he said.