Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Trade is never "free"

I've cut and pasted a section of an analysis (in yellow) by Media Matters, concerning comments by Karl Rove, made on the only network dumb enough to hire him:

During an interview on the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Sen. Barack Obama stated that he "believe[s] in trade, but ... we've got to strengthen the core labor and environmental standards in agreements like NAFTA." In an "instant analysis" segment after the interview, Fox News contributor Karl Rove claimed that there is "a difference between" Obama's current position on NAFTA and "what Senator Obama said in 2004, when he ran for the Senate and said we need more trade agreements like NAFTA." But Rove cited no specific 2004 comments by Obama or news stories about Obama; in fact, Obama's statement on Fox & Friends echoed his position on trade as reported in a September 27, 2004, Chicago Tribune article (retrieved from the Nexis news database).

The Tribune article stated: "Obama agrees that new trade agreements need to be brokeredthough he said those new agreements should promote basic worker rights and environmental protections." The article later reported, " 'As part of any current or future trade agreement negotiations, our nation must address the dislocations caused by expanded global trade,' Obama said, 'by maintaining workers' basic benefits and helping them retrain and by providing communities hit with plant closings with tools and strategies to remain viable.' "

Several other reports in 2004 quoted Obama saying new trade agreements should promote worker rights and environmental protections, including:

  • A July 17, 2004, Economist article that reported Obama "wants to 'review' NAFTA to check it includes safeguards for American workers, as well as the environment."
  • An August 2, 2004, Washington Times article that said, "Mr. Obama is a critic of NAFTA and has said that the United States should 'retool trade agreements to include protections for American workers and the global environment.' "
  • An October 20, 2004, Associated Press article, which stated that Obama "[b]elieves tariffs could cause other countries to impose restrictions on U.S. goods, hurting manufacturers; wants NAFTA renegotiated to include worker and environmental protections; believes the World Trade Organization helps bring about fair deals that protect workers worldwide."
  • An October 31, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times article that said of Obama's trade policy: "Opposes tariffs, saying foreign countries might retaliate in kind against U.S. exports; would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to protect workers and the environment."

During his appearance on Fox & Friends, Rove also stated: "[I]f you're gonna renegotiate NAFTA, what do you, what do you think the Canadians and Mexicans are gonna be asking for? I mean, it's -- the likelihood of us renegotiating this is just -- he flipped in order to get votes in Ohio." But the September 2004 Tribune article reported:"Obama said, if elected [to the U.S. Senate], he would press for NAFTA's renegotiation because the current deal contains inadequate labor and environmental standards."

Hey, Karl---you blood-sucking leech---Obama did say in 2004 that the WTO and NAFTA benefitted U.S. exports, which is accurate--volume-wise--in various sectors. But he has also been leery of NAFTA, and his comments and cynicism regarding the treaty have seemed to remain consistent. 

NAFTA supporters and detractors alike can ask any freight forwarder at any such company (most of whom are run by pro-NAFTA management); they can usually quote shipment counts off the top of their heads. They are odd that way.  Yes, certain export volumes increased, and truck traffic exploded. The ultimate cost of those increases under NAFTA is debatable, however, when one factors in environmental and worker health issues and U.S. manufacturing's job losses related to the Mexican border and interior.  

The Canadian border story is its own animal. My life-long pal Darryl LaPierre has worked for customs brokers along the U.S./Canadian border in both New York State and Maine for close to 30 years. He is also responsible for introducing me to this racket, but I'm not angry anymore. He has sent me some of his views and hands-on experiences, which I'll try to post when NAFTA again rears its ugly head. 

It's an Election Year; lots of ugly heads in rears.

Ultimately, I hope Obama continues to remain in favor of a treaty renegotiation that addresses the things "fast-tracking" blew by. While this may seem strange since many of my peers support NAFTA, I can't ignore the many bad parts.

(I've worked in the trade and transport business for almost a quarter-century, and I often feel like Al Pacino in Godfather III; "Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!")    

Below is Obama's voting record on trade, via Project Vote Smart. He voted "NO" on CAFTA implementation measures, with "YES" votes on the Oman agreement and its implementation (also likely in need of renegotiation, and--for me--puzzling Obama votes), which target reduction and elimination of certain tariffs and duty rates in that region. Once again, however, environmental and worker health issues are given short shrift, according to the AFL-CIO, and over 350 other watchdog groups, and cited on the AFL-CIO's official blog.

My general opinion is that if the Bush administration touches it, it's probably crap. It will be a Big-Business boondoggle and crony give-away and will likely poison someone, too.

(Sorry, Karl. I don't see too much of an Obama flip-flop on NAFTA. Media Matters's Nexis search didn't uncover any hard discrepencies, either. But since I couldn't decipher your disjointed sputtering, quoted above, maybe we've all misunderstood you. Doubtful though, huh? Too bad that whole "Bush's Brain" thing has left you looking so--what's the word?--insane. Good luck with your fellow jackals at FOX News, though. Do Roger Ailes's gills look creepy close up?)  

Hillary Clinton cast identical votes on these 5 issues, but as evidence of her "experience", she was an early, avid supporter of NAFTA as First Lady, back when Barack was still honing his audacity of hope.   

Trade Issues

(Back to top)

DateBill TitleVote
12/04/2007United States-Peru Trade AgreementNV
09/19/2006U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement ImplementationY
06/29/2006U.S. -Oman Free Trade AgreementY
07/28/2005CAFTA Implementation BillN
06/30/2005CAFTA Implementation BillN



Anonymous said...

Here's a quote from MSNBC of Obama explaining his support of NAFTA to a New Hampshire voter...

"Obama said he would vote for a Peruvian trade agreement next week, in response to a question from a man in Londonderry, NH who called NAFTA and CAFTA a disaster for American workers. He said he supported the trade agreement with Peru because it contained the labor and environmental standards sought by groups like the AFL-CIO, despite the voter's protests to the contrary. He also affirmed his support for free trade."


The voter's "protests to the contrary" are exactly right. The AFL-CIO does not support the bill expanding NAFTA into Peru, and the much-trumpeted labor/environmental standards leave enforcement up to the Bush administration, rather than empowering third parties to enforce them (like corporations have the power to enforce investor rights provisions in these same trade agreements). Leaving enforcement to the Bush administration -- or any administration -- is the biggest loophole possible. It is precisely why corporate lobbyists have bragged to reporters that the standards are not enforceable.

Anonymous said...

Next time NAFTA comes up Obama should be consistent with his voting record on NAFTA and say nothing.

Rove 1
Obama 0

Traveling Gnome

JohnnyRussia said...

His NAFTA cynicism has been consistent. His votes on CAFTA--a NAFTA look-alike and expansion-- reflect that. I think a President Obama would be closer to a "fair trader" than a "free trader", and he has said NAFTA should be reviewed. We'll see if that is followed through if he's The Guy.