Washington – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen U.S. Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro — two of her most trusted allies — to help her address Democratic concerns about a key trade agreement President Donald Trump has negotiated with Mexico and Canada.
The Connecticut Democrats will join a nine-member working group that will negotiate the terms of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) directly with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The new pact updates but does not fundamentally change the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The working group is divided into four subgroups: drug pricing, labor, environment and enforcement. In setting the subgroups up, Pelosi picked DeLauro, D-3rd District, one of the fiercest critics of NAFTA, to work on enforcement of protections for labor, environment and other areas which must be approved by Congress.
DeLauro has been critical of the proposed USMCA, especially since Trump sent a formal draft of the proposal to Congress on May 30. Besides her concerns the new trade pact might weaken U.S. labor and environmental standards, DeLauro has slammed the Trump deal for giving pharmaceutical companies 10 years’ protection from cheaper competition in a category of expensive drugs called biologics, which are made from living cells.
She and other critics warn that without competition, drug companies could charge exorbitant prices for biologics.
“Congressional Democrats remain committed to making key changes to the core of the agreement that will include strong labor and environmental standards and enforcement and remove the monopoly rights for Big Pharma,” DeLauro said. “These key changes must be included in the text of the agreement in order for it to be considered in Congress.”
While DeLauro is paired with Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., to be members of the subgroup with some of the thorniest issues, enforcement, Larson and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore. were appointed to the subgroup that deals with environmental issues.
“The new NAFTA agreement must be a good deal for Connecticut workers and the Connecticut economy if it is to earn my support,” Larson said. He also said he looked forward “to working with my colleagues on the task force to closely scrutinize the agreement and to push for strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards.”
Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois will lead the drug pricing team and California Reps. Jimmy Gomez and Mike Thompson will head the labor group. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., will be at the head of the new House Democrats’ Trade Working Group.
As co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, DeLauro has been a member of Pelosi’s leadership team for years. As former head of the House Democratic caucus, Larson was also once a member of Pelosi’s leadership team and is now a subcommittee chairman on the Ways and Means Committee.