Congressman Sandy Levin. (photo: Reuters)
30 May 15
ep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, says a new trade deal could be a “major step backwards” on access to affordable medicines.
In an op-ed Thursday, Levin raised concerns that the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which the U.S. is negotiating, will curtail access to generic drugs.
“Is TPP the most progressive trade agreement in history?” Levin wrote in The Huffington Post, referring to a claim made by President Obama, who backs the emerging deal. “Not if you need access to affordable medicines.”
House Democratic leadership met earlier on Wednesday and decided they will all back Levin’s substitute amendment, according to a Pelosi spokesman.
“The leaders agreed to all support the Levin substitute in an effort to try to improve the TPA bill,” the aide said.
Levin, the House Ways and Means Committee’s ranking member, is staunchly opposed to the fast-track bill backed by the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
He argued the deal would leave Congress without a meaningful role in negotiating the Latin American-Pacific Rim trade deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“That is not the way to get TPP right, which I want. It is not the way to get a TPP with broad bipartisan support,” Levin said.
Levin’s bill includes specific negotiating instructions on all of the major outstanding issues in the negotiations.
For example, he calls for Congress to craft stricter enforcement rules for countries deemed to have manipulated their currencies.
His alternative also addresses what needs to be done to bring countries like Vietnam and Mexico into compliance with international labor standards, which he said isn’t addressed in the fast-track bill.
His alternative doesn’t allow for expedited consideration of any trade deals until bipartisan groups of House and Senate advisers determine that the White House followed the instructions.
Also, Congress would be tasked with writing consultation procedures, including what negotiating texts must be shared with Congress.