[Ip-health] Wall Street Journal: Democrats, Trump Trade Negotiator Near Deal for Trade Pact

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Dec 9 07:40:03 PST 2019


https://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats-trump-trade-negotiator-near-deal-for-trade-pact-11575860354
?

<SNIP>

Mexico’s Senate ratified the agreement earlier this year. House Democrats,
however, have held up ratification to demand changes to the USMCA, which
was negotiated by the administration last year as a replacement to the
North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada has signaled that Ottawa is
likely to accept changes agreed to by Mexico and the U.S.

Democrats’ demands include lowering the intellectual-property protections
for biologic drugs as well as increasing enforcement measures for labor
standards in the agreement.

<SNIP>

What compromises were offered to bridge the gaps couldn’t be determined. A
spokesman for Mr. Lighthizer didn’t return a request for comment. Democrats
are reviewing a proposal from Mr. Lighthizer’s office, a person familiar
with the negotiations said.

An administration official said, “We are very, very, very close to
completion.” When asked about timing, he suggested that work could finish
by the Christmas holiday.

<SNIP>

Mexican Foreign Minister Ebrard also said Sunday that Mexico has devised
several proposals for reducing the period for exclusive protections for
biologic drugs. The drugs, which are produced from living cells or tissue,
are frequently expensive, and big pharmaceutical companies have sought
lengthy periods of exclusivity. Many House Democrats campaigned last year
on lowering the cost of prescription drugs and so want to reduce that time
to make way for competitively priced alternatives.

While next year’s elections diminish the time for compromise, the
impeachment inquiry into President Trump is driving some Democrats in
competitive districts to pressure party leaders to conclude the trade deal.
It would represent a legislative victory, especially one that shows they
can work with Mr. Trump.

--


POLITICS

Democrats, Trump Trade Negotiator Near Deal for Trade Pact

Though hurdles remain, an agreement would allow the U.S.-Mexico-Canada
agreement to come to a vote in Congress


By Natalie Andrews and Anthony Harrup
Dec. 8, 2019 9:59 pm ET

WASHINGTON—House Democrats and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
are nearing a deal for Congress to pass a modified U.S. trade agreement
with Canada and Mexico, though hurdles remain, according to people familiar
with the negotiations.

House Democrats and Mr. Lighthizer have been meeting for months to hammer
out a deal to amend the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, and have
narrowed differences over key sticking points in recent days, the people
said. The biggest divide is over revising the agreement on the enforcement
of labor rules, a priority for Democrats.


Mexico’s chief trade negotiator, the undersecretary for North America,
Jesús Seade, who was in Washington last week, delivered a status update to
Mexican senators in Mexico City on Sunday. Afterward Foreign Minister
Marcelo Ebrard, who attended the meeting, said while the government remains
opposed to allowing U.S. inspectors to enforce labor rules in Mexico, he
welcomed the use of arbitration panels to resolve disputes over labor
standards.

Mexico’s Senate ratified the agreement earlier this year. House Democrats,
however, have held up ratification to demand changes to the USMCA, which
was negotiated by the administration last year as a replacement to the
North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada has signaled that Ottawa is
likely to accept changes agreed to by Mexico and the U.S.

Democrats’ demands include lowering the intellectual-property protections
for biologic drugs as well as increasing enforcement measures for labor
standards in the agreement.


An administration official said, “We are very, very, very close to
completion.” When asked about timing, he suggested that work could finish
by the Christmas holiday.What compromises were offered to bridge the gaps
couldn’t be determined. A spokesman for Mr. Lighthizer didn’t return a
request for comment. Democrats are reviewing a proposal from Mr.
Lighthizer’s office, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

President Trump has used speeches and tweets to try to pressure House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to take up the agreement. The White House
has yet to send the deal to Congress, trying to work out an agreement that
would satisfy House Democrats and Mexico.

Negotiators have come close to a deal before, only to see disagreements
arise and sour the mood among lawmakers, labor unions and U.S. and Mexican
officials. While any agreement would need to satisfy Democrats’ demands
without alienating Mexico, many lawmakers see the window for passage in
Congress narrowing, given that the presidential race next year will likely
diminish chances for compromise.

Passing a revised version of USMCA through all three countries’
legislatures would eliminate the old Nafta and replace it with an agreement
that adds new provisions covering such areas as technology. Ratification
would remove uncertainty for investors and mark a victory for Mr. Trump,
who vowed to scrap Nafta and negotiate a better deal.

The Mexican government’s proposal to use arbitration panels, but not U.S.
inspectors, to enforce labor standards would go some way to meeting
Democrats’ demands. Some Democratic aides, however, have said that some
industries in Mexico are already subject to inspections, so the Mexican
government shouldn’t object to expanding the practice to other industries.

To secure enough Democratic votes to pass the House, the agreement will
likely require the acquiescence, if not explicit backing, of labor unions,
which have demanded tougher provisions for the enforcement of labor
standards. A spokesman for Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, did
not return a request for comment on the negotiations.

Mexican Foreign Minister Ebrard also said Sunday that Mexico has devised
several proposals for reducing the period for exclusive protections for
biologic drugs. The drugs, which are produced from living cells or tissue,
are frequently expensive, and big pharmaceutical companies have sought
lengthy periods of exclusivity. Many House Democrats campaigned last year
on lowering the cost of prescription drugs and so want to reduce that time
to make way for competitively priced alternatives.

While next year’s elections diminish the time for compromise, the
impeachment inquiry into President Trump is driving some Democrats in
competitive districts to pressure party leaders to conclude the trade deal.
It would represent a legislative victory, especially one that shows they
can work with Mr. Trump.

Democrats who supported the original Nafta in 1993 did so over the
opposition of many labor groups, costing the party critical support. Union
workers in places such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan supported
President Trump in 2016, partly because he promised to end or renegotiate
Nafta and bring manufacturing and other jobs back to the U.S.

—William Mauldin and Alex Leary contributed to this article.

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews at wsj.com and Anthony Harrup at
anthony.harrup at wsj.com

-- 
Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org


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