Trade policy is a subject that does not necessarily come to mind when you think of the FDA. But in fact, there are two reasons why the FDA is closely following trade policy: protecting our rules and authorities and using trade agreements as a vehicle to promote public health. The USMCA is updating and replacing the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Work on the new agreement took several years, had to be approved by both houses of Congress and required all three countries to certify that they were complying with the various measures of the agreement. Certifications are being implemented, so that the agreement can enter into force. UsmCA rules will apply from July 1, 2020. In this article, we assess the health effects of USMCA based on the methods and approaches we used in our previous health impact study of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) [3,4,5.6] (now CPTPP after the U.S. exit from the agreement in early 2017). We begin by discussing the likely impact of the USMCA`s Intellectual Property Rights (IDR) provisions on access to medicines, before discussing several new measures in the agreement that could reduce the government`s self-sustaining policy room for manoeuvre. Changes to investment protection rules (often used to challenge environmental or other public health measures) lead to more positive health outcomes, but will continue to allow foreign investors to take legal action against new government rules, considered an “expropriation” of the value of their investments for several more years.
We then turn to the improvements required in terms of labour and environmental protection. All the while, we are using the WTO and the CPTPP agreements as a means of comparison to highlight the changes within the USMCA. We conclude with a discussion on what the USMCA envisions for the future of new regional or bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and the future of the multilateral trading system (WTO). This is not applicable under WTO rules (this is a recommendation of the Committee and not a binding agreement), but it has become enforceable under the USMCA. As with other provisions relating to international standards, it places trade, if not higher, and at least finds itself in competition with health and safety rules. The USMCA also requires contracting parties to consider all possible international standards when developing their own international standards and, if they do not take into account a given standard, they must give a reason (s.188.8.131.52). This could allow a government to accept an international standard with a lower security threshold, not a standard that offers greater protection. The parties undertake to consult and cooperate, where appropriate, on environmental issues of mutual interest, particularly trade-related issues, within the framework of relevant multilateral environmental agreements.
These include the exchange of information on the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements to which a party belongs; ongoing negotiations on new multilateral environmental agreements; and each side`s views on additional multilateral environmental agreements (Article 24.8.3).