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US Democrats unveil trade strategy

Congressional Democratic leaders unveiled a set of policy principles that they want incorporated into several pending free trade agreements (FTAs), as well as the country's broader trade agenda.

In return for their support in Congress, Democrats are seeking to include stronger provisions on labour and environmental standards, and to provide protections for the abilities of countries to produce affordable generic medicines. "The policies that we've outlined today should send a clear message that this Congress wants trade, but we want trade that works for all Americans," said Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, through which all trade legislation must pass before Congress can vote on it. The Democrats' platform calls for better job retraining and benefits for people who lose their jobs due to the effects of trade. The Democratic proposals would also see that FTAs would have to "require countries to adopt, maintain and enforce basic international labour standards in their domestic laws and practice". The Democrats want bilateral trade deals to "promote sustainable development and combat global warming by requiring countries to implement and enforce common multilateral environmental agreements". The policy notably calls for establishing "a fair balance" in trade agreements between protecting patent rights and promoting access to medicines. Intellectual property rights provisions in FTAs that the U.S. have negotiated have been criticized by development groups for going well beyond WTO requirements to restrict the ability of developing countries to produce affordable generic drugs.

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