Economy

Clinton on Ross Perot's "Giant Sucking Sound"; Obama Tries to Have it Both Ways

Trade issues on the road to the White House, from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
And lots of trade on the campaign trail this week:

According to Business News Analysis (BNA), "Sen. Clinton Invited to Colombia in Bid To Reverse Her Opposition to Trade Pact" (sorry, not linkable):
Clinton, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a Nov. 8 statement posted on her campaign's Web site (www.hillaryclinton.com) that she opposes U.S. congressional endorsement of the Colombia FTA, as well as those with South Korea and Panama.
"I am very concerned about the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia," the statement said.
Speaking to reporters in Chile on Nov. 9, Uribe called Clinton's statement unacceptable. "This is very serious, very serious," he said. "It's an unforgivable misunderstanding of Colombia."
Plata, who is visiting Washington the week of Nov. 12 to meet Bush administration officials and members of Congress, said that the Colombian government has made major progress in curbing violence in the country, including against union members.
And according to the Associated Press:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton told union activists Monday she would call a "time out" on trade agreements if she wins the White House to see if the deals are draining jobs from the U.S.
"I am going to do everything I can to move toward smart trade," said Clinton.
She promised to appoint an official to ensure that trade agreement provisions designed to protect labor and environmental standards are enforced by groups such as the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization.
Is she saying the time out starts right after she votes for the Peru NAFTA expansion?

Also according to the Associated Press, "Obama Challenges Clinton on Trade Deals" (ironic given this):
"So, when a candidate rails against NAFTA today, it's fair to ask her where she was with NAFTA 20 years ago," said Obama. "You don't just suddenly wake up and say NAFTA is a terrible thing when you were for it before."
Obama made his case at a regional convention of the United Auto Workers just a day after Clinton used the same forum to call for a "time out" on new trade deals while their impact on American jobs is assessed.
In her speech, Clinton said she would be cautious on new trade agreements, but she carries the baggage of her husband's presidency during which NAFTA was negotiated and approved.
"Politicians often say they are pro-labor at election time, no matter what they've said or done before," said Obama. "And that leaves you wondering what they will say or do after the election."
Well, I guess we don't have to wonder, but Obama's consistent support of the NAFTA model (with the weird exception of CAFTA which has the same rules as the other agreements, incl. Peru, Panama, etc.) in spite of the facts might be scarier than a candidate who responds to the politics of the situation. NAFTA expansions have proven to be both bad policy and bad politics.

And from the John Edwards campaign this week, according to the Associated Press,"Edwards Vows to Reverse Trade Policies:"
Democrat John Edwards vowed Wednesday to labor leaders that if elected president he will reverse trade and tax policies -- some of them dating from Bill Clinton's administration -- that he said are designed to wipe out middle-class working families.
And from last night's debate in Las Vegas, according to MSNBC's First Read:

Clinton responded to moderator Wolf Blitzer's question about NAFTA with a chuckle. "Sen. Clinton, all of us remember the big NAFTA debate when your husband was president of the United States," Blitzer said. "A lot of us remember the debate between Al Gore, who was then vice president, and Ross Perot. Ross Perot was fiercely against NAFTA. Knowing what we know now, was Ross Perot right?"

"All I can remember from that is a bunch of charts," she replied. "That, sort of, is a vague memory." Clinton went on to call for the enforcement of current trade agreements, including environmental, labor, and corporate provisions within them.
Also according to First Read, the Edwards campaign held a press call today to talk about the debate:
Joining Bonior on the call were Edwards endorsers Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine, Roger Tauss of the Transport Workers Union International and Leo Gerard of United Steelworkers International. They used the call to push Edwards' opposition to the Peru free trade agreement, which recently passed the House, and to tie Clinton to what they saw as her husband's failures during his administration. "There's no question that Bill Clinton gave us the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it was his administration that failed to give us universal health care," Bonior said.
And on this topic, a video courtesy of David Sirota:



And on Mike Huckabee, the Nation reports, "Huckabee Rises -- On a Wave of Economic Populism:"

Two news polls from Iowa have former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee rapidly gaining on the longtime front-runner in that state's caucus contest, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney…
In tenuous economic times -- characterized by foreclosures, high gas prices and fears of recession -- the Arkansan is campaigning as a populist who criticizes corporations, talks about the need to change our trade policies and promises to tip the balance away from Wall Street and toward Main Street.
Huckabee's actually secured the endorsement of the Machinists union with that kind of talk. But the real breakthrough is with working-class socially conservative Republicans in Iowa. He's giving them an alternative to Tom Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" scenario -- in which low- and middle-income Americans vote against their class interests in order to advance their "moral values."
And don't forget about the Senate. Just like the 2006 midterms, candidates across the country are campaigning on no more NAFTA platforms. Take Oregon for example where leading Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Jeff Merkley, running against Republican incumbent Gordon Smith, sent out a press release opposing the Peru NAFTA expansion:
"The Peru trade deal still sticks too closely to NAFTA. With the loss of thousands of Oregon jobs since NAFTA passed, we have to move away from using it as a model," Merkley said. "Future trade negotiations would be wise to ditch NAFTA as a starting point. Right now, the Peru agreement just isn't good enough for American working families."
Stay tuned for more Trade on the Trail.
Holly Shulman is the press officer at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
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