MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Protections for biologic drugs will be reduced “drastically” in a new North American trade deal, a senior Mexican official said on Wednesday, in what would be a significant setback for major U.S. pharmaceutical companies.
In a column for Mexican newspaper El Universal, deputy foreign minister Jesus Seade said “very high protection” for the drugs will be “eased drastically” in changes under discussion for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
U.S. Democratic lawmakers have described as a “giveaway” a provision under USMCA that would grant 10 years of data exclusivity for makers of biologic medicines, arguing that it will lead to higher prices for consumers.
Seade, Mexico’s chief negotiator for the USMCA, is currently in Washington for more talks on the deal, which was agreed in 2018 and approved by the Mexican Senate earlier this year.
Ratification in the United States has been held up by Democratic lawmakers seeking changes to the accord, including cutting such protections for the pharmaceutical industry.
Democrats have also pressed to get stricter enforcement of new Mexican labor rules enshrined in the deal by proposing that inspectors supervise their implementation.
In the column, Seade said there would be no inspectors.
Mexican business groups have bristled against that plan as an attempt to make the country less attractive to investment, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday Mexico would not accept such conditions.
The USMCA is due to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to scrap if it was not overhauled.
The Mexican official also said that existing flaws in NAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanisms would be fixed in the adjustments currently being made to USMCA.
(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Lisa Shumaker)