2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum: on Free Trade


Barack Obama: People donít want cheaper T-shirts if it costs their job

Q: The flip side to fair trade: how do you convince a working family thatís struggling to get by that buying American is still best for them, when American T-shirts cost $20 and imported ones are $10?

A: Look, people donít want a cheaper T-shirt if theyíre losing a job in the process. They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt. And I think thatís something that all Americans could agree to.

But this raises a larger point, which is: globalization is here. And we should be trading around the world. We donít want to just be standing still while the rest of the world is out there taking the steps that it needs to in order to expand trade.

Congress has a responsibility because weíve got right now provisions in our tax code that reward companies that are moving jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing right here in the US. And that is a reflection of the degree to which special interests have been shaping our trade policy. Thatís something that Iíll end.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Barack Obama: Amend NAFTA to add labor agreements

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now. And it should reflect the basic principle that our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street, it should also be good for Main Street.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Bill Richardson: Enforce labor & environmental standards & job safety

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: We should never have another trade agreement unless it enforces labor protection, environmental standards and job safety. What we need to do is say that from now on, America will adhere to all international labor standards in any trade agreement--no child labor, no slave labor, freedom of association, collective bargaining--that is critically important--making sure that no wage disparity exists.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Chris Dodd: Include labor, environmental & health in trade deals

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: I think this requires modification. But we also need to do something else here. In addition to having trading agreements that include labor, environmental, health provisions in them, insisting on those provisions in any trading agreement here, we need to stop exporting the jobs in the country that already are here. I offered legislation by banning the outsourcing of jobs in the Senate.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Dennis Kucinich: Manufacturing policy: trade based on workers right

I want a new American manufacturing policy, where the maintenance of steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping is seen as vital for our national security. And I want to see America take a new direction in trade as part of this, and that means itís time to get out of NAFTA and the WTO--and have trade thatís based on workers right: the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, the right to decent wages and benefits and on and on. Iím here for workers standards.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Dennis Kucinich: Base trade on worker rights, human rights & environment

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: In my first week in office, I will notify Mexico and Canada that the US is withdrawing from NAFTA. We need a president who knows what the right thing is to do the first time, not in retrospect. And I think that we need to go forward to trade thatís based on workersí rights, human rights and environmental quality principles. No one else on this stage could give a direct answer because they donít intend to scrap NAFTA. Weíre going to be stuck with it

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Smart, pro-American trade: NAFTA has hurt workers

This past weekend, you expressed some disappointment that NAFTA, in your words, did not realize the benefits that it promised. How would you fix it?

A: Well, I had said that for many years, that NAFTA and the way itís been implemented has hurt a lot of American workers. In fact, I did a study in New York looking at the impact of NAFTA on business people, workers and farmers who couldnít get their products into Canada despite NAFTA. So, clearly we have to have a broad reform in how we approach trade. NAFTAís a piece of it, but itís not the only piece of it. I believe in smart trade. Pro-American trade. Trade that has labor and environmental standards, thatís not a race to the bottom but tries to lift up not only American workers but also workers around the world. Itís important that we enforce the agreements we have. Thatís why Iíve called for a trade prosecutor, to make sure that we do enforce them. The Bush administration havenít been enforcing the trade agreements at all.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Hillary Clinton: No fast-track authority for this president

Itís important that we have good information to make judgments. And when I looked at some of the trade agreements that the Bush administration sent our way, I voted against CAFTA. I donít want to give fast-track authority to this president.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Better approach: real trade adjustment assistance

Weíve got to have a better approach to trade around the world. And itís important that we have an idea of how to maximize the benefits from the global economy while minimizing the impact on American workers. That includes things like real trade adjustment assistance and other support.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Joe Biden: Presidentís job is to create jobs, not to export jobs

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: A presidentís job is to create jobs, not to export jobs, and the idea that we are not willing to take the prime minister of Canada and the president of Mexico to the mat to make this agreement work is just a lack of presidential leadership. I would lead, I would do that, I would change it.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

John Edwards: NAFTA is perfect example of bigger need for change

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: It needs to be fixed, but the first thing I want to say is NAFTA is a perfect example of the bigger problem. This deal was negotiated by Washington insiders, not by anybody in this stadium tonight. And the question is, when are we going to change it? Itís cost us a million jobs. We need environmental and labor standards. We need actually the Justice Department prosecuting the standards under NAFTA.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

John Edwards: FactCheck: NAFTA did not cost US a million jobs

John Edwards made this claim about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): ďItís cost us a million jobs.Ē

Thatís a disputed estimate. Other economic studies have produced far lower numbers. The million job figure comes from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington with ties to the labor movement. EPI estimated that the growth of exports since 1994 has supported an additional 1 million jobs in the US, while imports have displaced domestic production that would have supported 2 million jobs, leaving a net loss of 1 million. EPIís detractors state that EPIís estimate assumes that NAFTA is to blame for 100% of the growth in the trade deficit between the US and both Canada and Mexico and that it ignores other factors.

Whatever the effects of NAFTA, the US has gained nearly 26 million jobs since the agreement took effect on Jan. 1, 1994, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

  • The above quotations are from 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum, August 8, 2007.
  • Click here for definitions & background information on Free Trade.
  • Click here for other issues (main summary page).
  • Click here for more quotes by Barack Obama on Free Trade.
Candidates and political leaders on Free Trade:
Incoming Obama Administration:
Pres.:Sen.Barack Obama
V.P.:Sen.Joe Biden
State:Hillary Clinton
Staff:Rahm Emanuel
Treas.:Tim Geithner
DoD:Robert Gates
A.G.:Eric Holder
DHS:Janet Napolitano
DoC:Bill Richardson
Outgoing Bush Administration:
Pres.:George Bush
V.P.:Dick Cheney
A.G.:John Ashcroft(2005)
DEA:Asa Hutchinson(2005)
USDA:Mike Johanns(2007)
EPA:Mike Leavitt
HUD:Mel Martinez(2003)
State:Colin Powell(2005)
State:Condoleezza Rice
HHS:Tommy Thompson(2005)
2008 Presidential contenders:
AIP: Frank McEnulty
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP VP: Gov.Sarah Palin
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Independent: Ralph Nader
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
NAIP: Amb.Alan Keyes
Socialist: Brian Moore
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