Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chill Out, Canada: Despite Tough Campaign Rhetoric Obama Will Not Touch NAFTA

As the Democratic primaries moved through the "Rust Belt," Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sparred viciously over NAFTA. Clinton made her famous/infamous "shame on you" speech in response to Obama's campaign advertisement, which questionably portrayed Clinton as an avid supporter of NAFTA.

Obama threatened to force the Canadians to renegotiate provisions of the statute -- even if that meant unilaterally pulling out of the agreement. Obama also pushed a strong line that linked Hillary Clinton to the passage of NAFTA. Even though she was First Lady (and not a lawmaker) at the time, Obama portrayed Clinton as a fierce advocate of the legislation.

The situation became most heated when a Canadian official suggested that Obama "winked" at Canadians behind the scenes and tried to reassure them that his NAFTA-bashing rhetoric was simply political grandstanding. Obama responded by saying that the Canadian official grossly misstated the content of his position.

After he secured the Democratic nomination, however, Obama indeed backed away from his hard anti-NAFTA rhetoric. During a June 2008 interview with Fortune, Obama said that he would not unilaterally seek to reopen negotiations concerning NAFTA. Even though he had once described NAFTA as "devastating" and as a "big mistake," he brushed those comments aside as "overheated and amplified" campaigning.

An article appearing in today's New York Times describes Obama's latest statements regarding NAFTA. Obama discussed the importance of Canada as a trading partner during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The interview took place in advance of his scheduled trip to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday.

The article confirms prior reports which reveal that Obama has substantially backed away from his anti-NAFTA rhetoric and appears unwilling to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. Here's a clip:
''I think there are a lot of sensitivities right now because of the huge decline in world trade,'' Obama said Tuesday when asked whether now was the time to renegotiate NAFTA. He maintained that labor and environmental standards, currently part of side deals, could be better enforced if woven into the main agreement.

''But what I've also said is that Canada is one of our most important trading partners,'' Obama said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ''We rely on them heavily. There's $1.5 billion worth of trade going back and forth every day between the two countries. . . .It is not in anybody's interest to see that trade diminish.''

The article also discusses the so-called "Buy America" provision in the stimulus package. Apparently this provision lacks teeth because it does not disturb existing statutory requirements, including those created by NAFTA and other free trade agreements.


Mark G said...

I see no reason to be confident that the President will stick to his latest statement, and leave NAFTA untouched, if in the future some change in the political winds makes it advantageous.

Anonymous said...

All of Obama's promises have an expiration date. In most cases, this is a good thing.

Nagarajan said...

"All of Obama's promises have an expiration date. In most cases, this is a good thing."
True words !! Three types of people beleived in the NAFTA nonsense spewed by Obama

1. Hi starry eyed supporters
2. His more restrained supporters who dont even have a fundamental understanding of how the global economy works
3. Free trade supporters - they were of course alarmed by this talk - given that he opposed CAFTA, they thought that he was being consistent when he opposed NAFTA ( after all CAFTA trade revenues is lesser than trading with Canada/Mexico)

we are all now glad that it was nothing more than a small lie for getting elected.

Anonymous said...

First, I'd like to say I'm quite impressed with your blog. I'm sure I don't agree with all your views, but I very much appreciate your effort to host a rational discussion, and bring facts to the table. Great job!

Second, I too find the pervasive dishonesty of most of the press and political players to be - well, disgusting.

When "campaign rhetoric" becomes equivalent to and justification for "he lied, so what, get over it", it become hard to trust ANYTHING that Obama et al say.

Seems like there is famous story about a boy and a wolf that serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of abusing trust.

James H said...

I am hoping and praying that the same goes for the Columbia Free Trade Deal that seemed to get swept away in politics.

Hopefully the Presdient will get on board on that soom

Anonymous said...

Mark, even if Obama wanted to renegotiate NAFTA he would need a willing partner on the Canadian side to sit down and hash things out with. This Canadian partner does not exist. Canada is not going to renegotiate NAFTA without significant pain being exerted on the US by means of energy tarrifs. And when the US balks at this negotiations fall apart.

California could more easily secede from the US than the US get out of NAFTA.

Canadian Tourism said...

On the occasion of his first foreign visit, Canadian Tourism shot some videos of Canadians welcoming Obama to Canada. They're worth a look!

Welcome to Ottawa, President Obama!
What should President Obama do in Ottawa?
What should President Obama know about Canada?

msakel said...

Oh, come on, now, Darren, what do you mean "Chill Out Canada"? Surely you don't think that Obama's words can be trusted! You say as much in your column!

And let me ask you this about Obama's sending 17,000 troops all of a sudden to osama-forsaken Afganistan. Here's the Prez in his CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge (the best Canadian journalist at the world-renowned national CBC broadcaster) and he is saying that he doesn't believe in eradicating terrorism and terrorists in that region by Military means! No way, the Prez says that he will engage "diplomacy and development". Yah, sure! And my grandmother is a Mountie in Ottawa!

Prez O'Bama has the nerve to say that he believes in Diplomacy and Development---while, he is simultaenously sending his 17,000 troops to Afganistan! Talking from both sides of his mouth is a dangerous affliction, as is ObaMyopia. And don't forget Darren that Canadians have spent 22 Billion dollars for that dumb Afganistan War. What for? Allowing the Americans to protect the Soros, etc., Oil companies's Pipeline interests in the region? Or, don't tell me the American and Canadian soldiers are giving up their young lives to permit little Afgani girls go to public school and liberalize the islamist fanatics' dress code! Gimme a break!

hysperia said...

There are some Canadians who didn't like NAFTA, protested against NAFTA and still think it has caused more harm than good. They're Canada's progressive political thinkers and activists:

We have forgotten.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Msakel - I think you missed something....facetiousness and sarcasm.

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