Thursday, February 28, 2008
As they have tussled for votes in economically beleaguered Ohio, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have both excoriated the North American Free Trade Agreement while lobbing accusations against their opponent on the issue.
Lost amid the posturing, however, is that both have staked out nuanced positions in the past on Nafta and have supported similar trade deals. Although their language has become much more hostile to free trade as they have exchanged charges and countercharges, neither of them would have been mistaken in the past for an ardent protectionist or a die-hard free trader.
Instead, both appear to have been part of the conflicted middle ground within the Democratic Party that is groping for a proper balance between being friendly to free trade agreements, believing they are beneficial to the economy, but also seeking to level the playing field for the United States when it comes to labor and environmental standards and addressing job losses that come with globalization.
“The bottom line,” said Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch division of Public Citizen and a fierce free trade foe, “is neither of the current Democratic candidates were in the category of leaders fighting for improving U.S. trade policy to try to come up with different terms for globalization, but in the course of their campaign they have come to see both the political necessity and the substantive problems, pushing them to some interesting new thinking.”
There is clearly a large dose of politics behind the vigor with which the Democratic contenders are attacking each other on Nafta, full of parsed quotations and misrepresentations. Mr. Obama has accused Mrs. Clinton of full-throated support for Nafta in the past, while Mrs. Clinton has leveled the same charge against Mr. Obama....(Click here for remainder of article).