Labor, environment and affordable health care among the priorities laid out by Rep. Richard Neal in a letter to to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., formally described House Democrats’ concerns regarding the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in a letter he sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday.
“Strong labor standards. Strong environmental standards,” Neal (pictured above) wrote. “Mechanisms inside the agreement to ensure that those provisions (and other provisions) are enforceable and will make a difference. Terms that are favorable to Americans’ access to affordable health care and preserve Congress’ space to make future policy changes.”
Following the conclusion of USMCA negotiations on Nov. 30, House Democrats have raised some concerns about the agreement, including enforceability of labor and environment provisions, as well as the term of data exclusivity outlined for companies that produce biologic drugs in North America.
The congressional consideration process for USMCA needs to be different than the process for NAFTA, Neal wrote, claiming that key promises made about NAFTA in 1993 weren’t kept.
He wrote that promises made to Congress to secure NAFTA’s approval included improvement of training and assistance programs, labor and environmental provisions that have teeth and raise standards in North America, and addressing border infrastructure after NAFTA was in place.
“Unlike last time, the promises and assurances made to secure support for this trade agreement must be more than just words on a page,” Neal wrote. “Pledges to educate and train our workers, revamp our border infrastructure and clean up our shared borders cannot fall by the wayside again.”
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative didn’t comment on the letter.