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Drugs May Tie Up FTAs

Drugs May Tie Up FTAs (03/15/2004)

WASHINGTON (DTN) — Disagreements over trade in pharmaceuticals may bog down pending free trade agreements between the U.S. and foreign nations.

The prospects for any trade bills — including the Australian, Central American and Moroccan free trade agreements — going through Congress this year may be low, Washington insider publication Congress Daily reported Friday, because House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told the publication he wants U.S. Trade Representative Bob Zoellick to address "problems" with trade in pharmaceuticals.

"Before we move on any trade bill, I want our trade representative to deal with the problems we have with pharmaceuticals in our pharmaceutical agreements, especially with Canada. I don’t intend to move a trade bill until we have that action," Hastert said.

Free trade advocates and pharmaceutical industry officials say drug price controls on the sale of U.S.-made pharmaceuticals overseas lead U.S. consumers pay higher prices and effectively subsidize drug research and development for the rest of the world. But congressional leadership is under increasing pressure from groups that want to "reimport" drugs from Canada and other countries.