John Edwards on Free Trade

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)

Enforce country-of-origin labeling laws to deal with China

Q: What would you do in order to give the U.S. more leverage, to be able to deal with China at least as an equal partner? And are you willing to do that despite the consequences?

A: What’s happened is big corporate America is driving American policy with respect to China. They get their way, and the American people lose. This is only one place that that happens, by the way. We have country-of-origin labeling laws. They’ve been in place for years, but we don’t enforce them. Why is the president of the United States not saying to the American people, to local communities, “Buy local”? It is good for the local economy. It is good for farmers. It is good on the issue of global warming. Because everything that comes from China carries an enormous carbon footprint with it.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate Dec 13, 2007

Human rights should be central to the US trade policy

Human rights should be central to the way America works with the rest of the world. But if you look at what’s happened with American trade policy. Big corporations made a lot of money and are continuing to make a lot of money in China. But what did the US get in return? Millions of dangerous Chinese toys, we lost millions of jobs. It is so important that we stop allowing these corporate powers and corporate profits to run America’s policy. Whether it’s trade policy, how we engage with China.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate Dec 13, 2007

Opposes trade with Colombia, South Korea, and Peru

If you look at my record through the entire time that I was in the Senate and when I was campaigning for the US Senate, I opposed NAFTA, I opposed CAFTA, I opposed the Colombia trade deal, I opposed the African Caribbean trade deal, I’m opposed to the South Korean trade deal, I’m opposed today to the proposal for a new trade deal with Peru. I think I’ve actually been very consistent. Senator Clinton is for the Peru trade deal. I’m against it. She’s for a moratorium, stopping any further trade deals.
Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer Nov 18, 2007

Hold China responsible for their trade obligations

Q: Was your vote to normalize trade relations with China a mistake?

A: What is a mistake is allowing China to operate unfettered, to send dangerous products into this country, to not have the president of the US hold them responsible for their trading obligations to the WTO, which has not been done. It was right to bring them into the WTO. It’s wrong to not hold them responsible for their obligations.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada Nov 15, 2007

Trade agreements now focus on profits for big multinationals

Q: You have criticized US trade agreements. How do you fashion trade agreements to protect American workers?

A: I think we’ve had a failed trade policy in America. The question seems to have been, on past trade agreements like NAFTA: Is this trade agreement good for the profits of big multinational corporations? And the answer to those questions on the trade agreements we’ve entered into has been yes. It’s been very good for multinational corporations. It has not been good for American workers. And in an Edwards administration, the first question I will ask in every single trade agreement we’re considering is: Is this good for middle-class working families in America? That would be the threshold question. And, second, we will have real labor and environmental standards in the text of the agreement, which I will enforce. And then finally we will end these loopholes that actually create tax incentives for companies to leave America and take jobs somewhere else.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on “This Week” Aug 19, 2007

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? It’s 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

FactCheck: NAFTA did not cost US a million jobs

John Edwards made this claim about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): “It’s cost us a million jobs.”

That’s 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. EPI’s detractors state that EPI’s 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

We need smart trade, not fair trade vs. free trade

We need a trade policy that works, a trade policy that’s fair to us and fair to the rest of the world. We have this great debate between fair trade and free trade; what we really need is smart trade. We need real standards in our trade agreements and our bilateral trade agreements, international labor standards, international environmental standards. They need to be standards that are achievable, but we need to have those standards.
Source: 2007 AFSCME Democratic primary debate in Carson City Nevada Feb 21, 2007

Globalization means more education needed for success

Q: The issue of globalization has shifted somewhat in recent years as many white collar jobs have been outsourced overseas.

A: We have to be smarter than we’ve been about the effects of globalization. What globalization has done is created a stratification of class in America. It’s much more difficult for somebody like me, who came from a pretty modest background and now has absolutely everything, to be able to do that in the country today. There are a lot of reasons for it. Our tax structure is one reason; not having access to health care is another. But the impact of globalization has makes it much more difficult to be able to move up and for their children to have a better life.

We have to be smarter, better educated. Science, math, technology -- we need to push more kids into those areas. We need to make it easier for kids to go to college, not harder. We need more serious investment in graduate education in all those areas.

Source: 2007 AFSCME Democratic primary debate in Carson City Nevada Feb 21, 2007

Renegotiate NAFTA rather than cancel it

EDWARDS [to Sharpton]: The Chile trade agreement and the Singapore agreement have very strong enforcement mechanisms. I would use the Free Trade of the Americas agreement as a vehicle for renegotiating NAFTA.

SHARPTON: I want to cancel it.

EDWARDS: I think we do need to renegotiate it. The problem with NAFTA is these side agreements don’t work. You have to put these labor/environmental protections in the text of the agreement.

Q: Will that be enough?

SHARPTON: No, I don’t think so. This cost jobs for Americans. And it is unequivocal evidence that it costs Americans jobs. People were unemployed. It also went below labor and human rights standards abroad. We need to cancel NAFTA unequivocally. We need to have standards that we would not deal with nations that would put laborers in those kinds of situations. We cannot protect American corporations and call that patriotic and not protect American workers and call that protections.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Require labor and environmental standards plus right-to-know

Q: Should the US seek more free or liberalized trade agreements?

A: I believe we need trade that works for America and the world, and have outlined a new approach to trade agreements that will protect American jobs and require labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. My approach would also establish an international ‘right to know,’ so that consumers know if corporations have moved jobs overseas or engage in abusive environmental and labor standards. I would also take aggressive measures to make sure foreign markets are open to US goods and include strong environmental and labor standards in all trade deals.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Trade” Jan 25, 2004

Against NAFTA, against Chile trade, against Singapore trade

GEPHARDT: I got a trade treaty with Jordan that really paid attention to labor & environmental rights. The Gephardt amendment is in law in the country, and it got markets open, like in Japan, where we’ve had to face unfair trade practices. Now, everybody up here, except Kucinich, voted for NAFTA and voted for the China agreement. They did the wrong thing. We need to bring up conditions in these other countries so that we work toward a global marketplace that works for everybody. You can’t do that if you give in to bad trade deals, like most of these candidates did.

EDWARDS: I didn’t vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. I voted against the Chilean trade agreement, against the Caribbean trade agreement, against the Singapore trade agreement, against final passage of fast track for this president. Gephardt has sent out mailings attacking and identifying all of us and putting us in the same category.

GEPHARDT: Well, you weren’t in Congress when NAFTA came up. But you voted for China.

Source: Democratic 2004 Presidential Primary Debate in Iowa Jan 4, 2004

Level the playing field for American workers

Q: How do you intend to boost the manufacturing base?

A: We have lost over 3 million private sector jobs under President Bush. Two and a half million of those are manufacturing jobs. In order to protect the jobs we have I would do the following.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 7, 2003

I supported steel tariffs, but now ease off

Q: Bush imposed tariffs on imported steel last year and is now considering rolling back those tariffs.

EDWARDS: I supported the tariffs as the time. I think they were important, given the surge of steel that had come into the US. I think it was the right thing to do. I supported it at the time. We’ve just gotten a new report, which we’re examining right now. My initial reaction is it may be time to ease off on the tariffs. It may actually be the right thing to do, given the result of the report.

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

National venture capital fund for those hurt by trade

You know, the president goes around the country speaking Spanish. The only Spanish he speaks when it comes to jobs is, “Hasta la vista.” Here’s what I would do as president. I would make sure in our trade agreements that we had real environmental protections, real labor protections, prohibitions against child labor and forced labor, so that we give our workers a better chance to compete.

But it’s not enough to just protect the jobs that we have. We have to create jobs, and particularly in those communities where the job loss has been greatest. First, I would stop these tax loopholes that give American businesses a reason to go overseas. Instead, we ought to give tax breaks to companies that’ll keep jobs right here in America. Then I would identify those places in America that have been hit the hardest, particularly by trade, and create a national venture capital fund for businesses that will locate there, give tax incentives to existing business and industry that will come there.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Against Fast Track--not enough for US workers

In 2002, Edwards voted against giving President Bush fast-track trade authority, after several provisions he supported to help workers and the textile industry were dropped from the final bill. Edwards worked to include amendments about negotiating textile deals with foreign countries, aid to displaced textile workers hurt by the trade deals, and increased financing for community college retraining programs. When these provisions were taken out of the final bill, Edwards voted against it.
Source: Campaign website, johnedwards2004.com, “Key Issues” Jul 17, 2003

John Edwards on Voting Record

Voted for China trade, but Bush has not enforced obligations

Q: Dennis Kucinich said at the debate, “Hillary Clinton was criticized by John Edwards for some trade-related issue. But the fact of the matter is, John, you voted for China trade understanding that workers were going to be hurt.” You want to respond?

A: Yeah. He’s wrong. The answer is that if you look at my record, I’ve actually been very consistent [against trade deals]. And on the issue of China, bringing China into the WTO, if we have a president that will actually enforce their trading obligations, actually gives us power over controlling their trading obligations. Unfortunately, we’ve had George Bush for 7 years, who’s done none of that. We need a president who will enforce their trading obligations.

Q: A lot of us remember the Al Gore debate with Ross Perot. At that time you opposed NAFTA as well?

A: Yes. I was not in the Senate then. But when I ran for the Senate, I was very vocally opposed to NAFTA because I had seen what effect it had on the people that I grew up with.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer Nov 18, 2007

Voted NO on establishing free trade between US & Singapore.

Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the US and Singapore. The trade agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the US and Singapore. The agreement would remove tariffs on goods and duties on textiles, and open markets for services The agreement would also establish intellectual property, environmental and labor standards.
Reference: US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act; Bill S.1417/HR 2739 ; vote number 2003-318 on Jul 31, 2003

Voted NO on establishing free trade between the US and Chile.

Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the US and Chile. The agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the US and Chile. The trade pact would decrease duties and tariffs on agricultural and textile products. It would also open markets for services. The trade pact would establish intellectual property safeguards and would call for enforcement of environmental and labor standards.
Reference: US-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act; Bill S.1416/HR 2738 ; vote number 2003-319 on Jul 31, 2003

Voted YES on extending free trade to Andean nations.

HR3009 Fast Track Trade Authority bill: To extend the Andean Trade Preference Act, to grant additional trade benefits under that Act, and for other purposes. Vote to pass a bill that would enlarge duty-free status to particular products from Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, renew the president's fast-track authority and reauthorize and increase a program to make accessible retraining and relocation assistance to U.S. workers hurt by trade agreements. It would also approve a five-year extension of Generalized System of Preferences and produce a refundable 70 percent tax credit for health insurance costs for displaced workers.

Edwards says, "Sen. Edwards voted NO on the final passage of this bill and has expressed his opposition to the Andean Free Trade agreement. "

Reference: Bill HR.3009 ; vote number 2002-130 on May 23, 2002

Voted YES on granting normal trade relations status to Vietnam.

Vote to grant annual normal trade relations status to Vietnam. The resolution would allow Vietnamese imports to receive the same tariffs as those of other U.S. trading partners.
Reference: Bill HJRES51 ; vote number 2001-291 on Oct 3, 2001

Voted YES on removing common goods from national security export rules.

Vote to provide the president the authority to control the export of sensitive dual-use items for national security purposes. The bill would eliminate restrictions on the export of technology that is readily available in foreign markets.
Reference: Bill S149 ; vote number 2001-275 on Sep 6, 2001

Voted YES on permanent normal trade relations with China.

Vote to give permanent Normal Trade Relations [NTR] status to China. Currently, NTR status for China is debated and voted on annually.
Reference: Bill HR.4444 ; vote number 2000-251 on Sep 19, 2000

Voted NO on expanding trade to the third world.

Vote to expand trade with more than 70 countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. The countries would be required to meet certain eligibility requirements in protecting freedoms of expression and associatio
Reference: Bill HR.434 ; vote number 2000-98 on May 11, 2000

Build a rule-based global trading system.

Edwards adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Write New Rules for the Global Economy
The rise of global markets has undermined the ability of national governments to control their own economies. The answer is neither global laissez faire nor protectionism but a Third Way: New international rules and institutions to ensure that globalization goes hand in hand with higher living standards, basic worker rights, and environmental protection. U.S. leadership is crucial in building a rules-based global trading system as well as international structures that enhance worker rights and the environment without killing trade. For example, instead of restricting trade, we should negotiate specific multilateral accords to deal with specific environmental threats.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC1 on Aug 1, 2000

Rated 17% by CATO, indicating a pro-fair trade voting record.

Edwards scores 17% by CATO on senior issues

The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism.

The Cato Trade Center focuses not only on U.S. protectionism, but also on trade barriers around the world. Cato scholars examine how the negotiation of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements can reduce trade barriers and provide institutional support for open markets. Not all trade agreements, however, lead to genuine liberalization. In this regard, Trade Center studies scrutinize whether purportedly market-opening accords actually seek to dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.

Studies by Cato Trade Center scholars show that the United States is most effective in encouraging open markets abroad when it leads by example. The relative openness and consequent strength of the U.S. economy already lend powerful support to the worldwide trend toward embracing open markets. Consistent adherence by the United States to free trade principles would give this trend even greater momentum. Thus, Cato scholars have found that unilateral liberalization supports rather than undermines productive trade negotiations.

Scholars at the Cato Trade Center aim at nothing less than changing the terms of the trade policy debate: away from the current mercantilist preoccupation with trade balances, and toward a recognition that open markets are their own reward.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: CATO website 02n-CATO on Dec 31, 2002

Other candidates on Free Trade: John Edwards on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010