New NAFTA deal signed without longer medicine monopolies and with stronger labour rights

December 17, 2019: Following labour and civil society campaigns over the past two years, the US, Canada and Mexico have signed an amended US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) which eliminates longer medicine monopolies that would have delayed access to cheaper medicines. The amendments also include stronger protection for labour rights.

Previous agreed changes phase out foreign investor rights to sue governments (ISDS) between the US and Canada, and place restrictions on foreign investor rights to sue Mexico.

The US Congressional Democrats responded to community pressure and negotiated elimination of a 10-year data exclusivity period for biologic drugs from the agreement, which they feared would lead to higher drug prices in the US, as well as in Mexico and Canada. They also negotiated stronger enforceability for labour rights.

The changes have been welcomed by unions and civil society groups, but some are still critical of President Trump’s claims of thousands of jobs resulting from the new agreement.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who was closely involved with the USMCA negotiations, said the amended agreement was a "vast improvement" over NAFTA.

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch director Lori Wallach said:

“The best feature of the new NAFTA is the gutting of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)…That a U.S. pact largely eliminates extreme ISDS protections for foreign investors and anti-democratic tribunals sends a signal worldwide about the illegitimacy of the ISDS regime.” But Wallach added, "Trump's claim that this new NAFTA will bring back hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs is absurd."

Some environment groups were also critical. Dan West, a senior advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said any passable trade agreement must include strong climate protections. "While the details are still secret," West said, "all indications are that the revised NAFTA pact fails this key climate test.”

The detailed amendments have not yet been published and will need to be approved by legislators in all three countries.