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Robert Reich on Free Trade

Former Secretary of Labor; Democratic Challenger MA Governor


NAFTA would be better with labor & environment standards

Q: When you were the labor secretary to the first term of the Clinton administration, they pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement. You were part of that administration. Was that a mistake?

A: I don’t think it was a mistake, but it wasn’t really a tremendous help. If you put labor and environmental standards into our trade agreements, it’s not a race to the bottom. If you have an environmental standard and a labor standard that, for example, bars all slave labor, guarantees the right to organize, maintains kind of minimum labor standards throughout the world, you are setting a floor for all nations. It’s not protectionism. This is a way of actually getting everybody up rather than having the bar continue to trend downward. We tried to do this in NAFTA, and, unfortunately, we couldn’t get the Mexican government support. We tried to have a labor and environmental side agreement. I think it would have been a much better agreement had we had that.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Jun 22, 2008

MA should compete by being productive, not cheap

Massachusetts is part of the global economy -- depending on exports to the rest of the world, capital from all over the globe, and immigrants. But Massachusetts can’t compete primarily on the basis of low costs of doing business; there’s always somewhere else on the globe that will be cheaper. We must compete on the basis of high productivity.
Source: Campaign web site, RobertReich.org , Jan 25, 2002

Share benefits of globalization; lower import trade barriers

Instead of being opposed to globalization, progressives should pressure the world’s wealthiest nations into sharing the benefits. While the global economy has grown at an average rate of 2.3 percent a year during the past three decades, the gap between the best-off and worst-off countries (as measured in per capita gross national product) is 10 times wider now than it was 30 years ago. And with poverty comes disease--AIDS already has claimed the lives of 10 million Africans and is projected to kill 25 million more over the next decade--as well as the continued destruction of the global environment.

Rather than advocate for less trade, progressives should seek to remove barriers that make it difficult for poorer countries to export to richer ones. That means fewer subsidies to farmers in advanced nations, combined with lower tariffs on farm products from the third world and fewer barriers (including “voluntary restraint agreements”) to textile and steel imports from poor nations.

Source: The American Prospect, vol.12, no.17, “Proper Global Agenda” , Oct 8, 2001

Poor nations should improve conditions as wealth increases

A practical agreement over labor and environmental standards could work this way: Poor nations agree that as they become wealthier, their labor and environmental standards will improve according to a predetermined scale of improvements: Median wages will rise, as will the minimum wage; workplace health and safety standards will ascend in tandem; environmental standards will gain ground.
Source: The American Prospect, vol.11, no.13, “Trade: A Third Way” , May 22, 2000

Backlash against globalization is growing, because of jobs

Will what happened in Seattle last week [protests against globalization at the WTO meeting] have any practical consequence for American politics? There is something going on here that politicians are taking note of. It’s a deepseated, grass-roots, backlash against globalization.

[In a 1999 poll] a majority of respondents thought the global economy will hurt average Americans. The only people in the survey who were positive about globalization were those earning more than $75,000 a year, a distinct minority.

Why this backlash against globalization? Simply because most peoples’ jobs are more precarious now than ever before. And while trade isn’t the only culprit -- it’s also technology, and fierce domestic competition -- trade is the easiest culprit for most people to understand.

It’s not Seattle that’s going to make a lasting political imprint. It’s the backlash that lay behind Seattle. And that backlash is growing.

Source: PBS radio, “Marketplace” broadcast, “What Seattle Means” , Dec 9, 1999

Urges worldwide campaign against child labor

Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says governments and international organizations must wage a coordinated campaign to end child labor around the world.

Speaking to an International Labour Organization (ILO) meeting, Reich voiced strong support for the ILO’s International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) for helping to raise public awareness about the problem.

He also praised a pilot program, recently launched with US government assistance, that

Source: Press Release, “Worldwide Campaign against Child Labor” , Jun 12, 1996

Trade with China makes sense if US workers are protected

Labor should set a price for China trade while it has the votes. Labor should demand that there be two other items in the legislation regularizing China’s trade status--a ban on the permanent replacement of striking workers and a tripling of fines against employers who illegally fire workers for attempting to organize a union. Then a vote on the whole package. The price for opening the door to more trade with one-sixth of the world’s population is more power for blue-collar workers in America.
Source: The American Prospect, Vol. 11, #11 , Apr 24, 2000

2010 Governor, House and Senate candidates on Free Trade: Robert Reich on other issues:
MA Gubernatorial:
Deval Patrick
MA Senatorial:
John Kerry
Scott Brown

2011 Special Elections:
CA-36:Jane Harman(D)
CA-36:Janice Hahn(D)
NV-2:Dean Heller(R)
NY-9:Anthony Weiner(D)
NY-26:Chris Lee(R)
NY-26:Kathleen Hochul(D)
Retiring 2012:
CA-6:Lynn Woolsey(D)
OK-2:Dan Boren(D)
MI-5:Dale Kildee(D)
TX-14:Ron Paul(R)
Running for Mayor:
CA-51:Bob Filner(D)
Running for Governor:
IN-6:Mike Pence(R)
WA-8:Dave Reichert(R)
Running for Senate:
AZ-1:Jeff Flake(R)
CT-5:Chris Murphy(R)
HI-2:Mazie Hirono(D)
IN-2:Joe Donnelly(D)
MO-2:Todd Akin(R)
MT-0:Dennis Rehberg(R)
ND-0:Rick Berg(D)
NM-1:Martin Heinrich(D)
NV-1:Shelley Berkley(D)
UT-3:Jason Chaffetz(R)
Dem. Freshmen
in 112th Congress:

AL-7:Terri Sewell
CA-33:Karen Bass
DE-0:John Carney
FL-17:Frederica Wilson
HI-1:Colleen Hanabusa
LA-2:Cedric Richmond
MA-10:Bill Keating
MI-13:Hansen Clarke
RI-1:David Cicilline
GOP Freshmen
in 112th Congress:

AL-2:Martha Roby
AL-5:Mo Brooks
AZ-1:Paul Gosar
AZ-3:Ben Quayle
AZ-5:David Schweikert
AR-1:Rick Crawford
AR-2:Tim Griffin
AR-3:Steve Womack
CA-19:Jeff Denham
CO-3:Scott Tipton
CO-4:Cory Gardner
FL-12:Dennis Ross
FL-2:Steve Southerland
FL-21:Mario Diaz-Balart
FL-22:Allen West
FL-24:Sandy Adams
FL-25:David Rivera
FL-5:Rich Nugent
FL-8:Dan Webster
GA-2:Mike Keown
GA-7:Rob Woodall
GA-8:Austin Scott
ID-1:Raul Labrador
IL-8:Joe Walsh
IL-10:Bob Dold
IL-11:Adam Kinzinger
IL-14:Randy Hultgren
IL-17:Bobby Schilling
IL-8:Joe Walsh
IN-3:Marlin Stutzman
IN-4:Todd Rokita
IN-8:Larry Bucshon
IN-9:Todd Young
KS-1:Tim Huelskamp
KS-3:Kevin Yoder
KS-5:Mike Pompeo
LA-3:Jeff Landry
MD-1:Andy Harris
MI-1:Dan Benishek
MI-2:Bill Huizenga
MI-3:Justin Amash
MI-7:Tim Walberg
MN-8:Chip Cravaack
MO-4:Vicky Hartzler
MO-7:Billy Long
MS-1:Alan Nunnelee
MS-4:Steven Palazzo
GOP Freshmen
in 111th Congress:

NC-2:Renee Ellmers
ND-0:Rick Berg
NH-2:Charlie Bass
NH-1:Frank Guinta
NJ-3:Jon Runyan
NM-2:Steve Pearce
NV-3:Joe Heck
NY-13:Michael Grimm
NY-19:Nan Hayworth
NY-20:Chris Gibson
NY-24:Richard Hanna
NY-25:Ann Marie Buerkle
NY-29:Tom Reed
OH-1:Steve Chabot
OH-15:Steve Stivers
OH-16:Jim Renacci
OH-18:Bob Gibbs
OH-6:Bill Johnson
OK-5:James Lankford
PA-10:Tom Marino
PA-11:Lou Barletta
PA-3:Mike Kelly
PA-7:Patrick Meehan
PA-8:Mike Fitzpatrick
SC-1:Tim Scott
SC-3:Jeff Duncan
SC-4:Trey Gowdy
SC-5:Mick Mulvaney
SD-0:Kristi Noem
TN-3:Chuck Fleischmann
TN-4:Scott DesJarlais
TN-6:Diane Black
TN-8:Stephen Fincher
TX-17:Bill Flores
TX-23:Quico Canseco
TX-27:Blake Farenthold
VA-2:Scott Rigell
VA-5:Robert Hurt
VA-9:Morgan Griffith
WA-3:Jaime Herrera
WI-7:Sean Duffy
WI-8:Reid Ribble
WV-1:David McKinley
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Page last updated: Nov 06, 2011