05/18/2007 01:11 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Real Progress on Trade

I was one of the last to vote in favor of NAFTA, because I was worried about what might happen. What finally persuaded me were the side letters outside the core agreement that pledged to address concerns that I and others had at the time. Fast forward to today and I believe we've come a very long way indeed, and I credit Charlie Rangel, chairman of Ways and Means, for demanding that we learn the lessons of history, and demanding that we put real teeth into a new trade policy.

To anyone who might say the glass is half empty, my advice is to take a sip and realize the glass is half full, and filling. Charlie got this President to do something extraordinary and that is to negotiate, as opposed to the usual White House stance of my way or the highway. Now, America has something concrete for every future trade deal to strengthen labor provisions and to protect the environment. I'd call that a very good day. Those who call it otherwise are trying to protect old turf by using scare tactics.

We still have to pass the legislation and I've been around DC enough to know that great starts don't always produce great finishes, but let me cite some examples of what U.S. trade will look like in the 21st century--- for the first time--- under this new trade policy.

What I call the no free lunch provision: taking a stand to ensure that America gets a fair deal that is a real deal without using blank checks or unlimited deficits.

A tiger with teeth: for the first time, labor unions, workers, and Members of Congress can petition the executive branch to challenge a foreign country's law or practices if they don't meet basic international standards.

Promoting the Common Good: I'm a medical doctor and I saw the HIV/AIDS pandemic take root in Africa 20 years ago. Millions of people perish every year, especially in poor countries; America can do more and we will under this new trade vision. It will reform the unreasonable standards of patent protection in poor countries that leave people without access to medicine. We're going to save lives and I think that speaks volumes to the whole world about the values that Americans truly embrace.

Promoting America's interests: If Americans fear for their economic security, then America fears for its national security. Some say the new trade policy sets a floor, but I think it begins to pour a new foundation to support American workers and business, and restoring America to a leadership role in improving the lives of people everywhere.

I represent what may be the most trade dependent city in America, so I know what's at stake every time a new agreement is proposed. I want a trade policy that serves America and serves as a benchmark for others nations. We've just taken a giant step forward into the 21st century.