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.