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Posted by on February 29, 2008 7:12 PM | Permalink
His own free-trade truce
William Daley believed in NAFTA when he helped get it approved during the Clinton years, and he still likes it. That results in 'a difference of opinion' with Barack Obama, for whom he is an adviser,
By David Greising, TRIBUNE REPORTER Tribune reporters Christi Parsons, who was with Obama, and Rick Pearson, who was with Clinton, contributed to this report
February 29, 2008
In the taut contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, no stump speech revs up the party faithful quite like an attack on NAFTA.
Hillary Clinton thinks the treaty between the U.S., Mexico and Canada skimps on labor and environmental protections. So does Barack Obama. Obama vows to junk the treaty if the Mexicans won't renegotiate those issues. So does Clinton.
And in the middle of it all, shifting uncomfortably as personal loyalties and political beliefs pinch and poke from different directions, is William Daley. The man President Bill Clinton tapped 15 years ago to get NAFTA through Congress today works for candidate Obama as an economics and political adviser.
And Daley still thinks the North American Free Trade Agreement was a good deal for the U.S. "I have a difference of opinion with Barack" about NAFTA, Daley said in a telephone interview from his Chicago office. "But he's the candidate, and I'm not.
"Barack makes the judgments. He believes we've gone too far. We haven't been tough enough on labor and the environment. We shouldn't let corporations write our trade treaties."
Indeed, even though it was 15 years ago that Daley helped get the treaty passed, NAFTA is a hot topic because concerns over the future of the U.S. worker in the global economy have become even more intense over time.
Daley noted that NAFTA plays differently in Ohio, where labor groups blame the treaty for a loss of nearly 15,000 jobs since 2003, and Texas, where studies claim employment actually has grown in southern Texas because of cross-border trade and investment.
"Nobody is running to the southern part of Texas and talking about how bad NAFTA is," Daley said.
Obama, campaigning in Texas on Thursday, acknowledged what he described as anecdotal evidence about NAFTA's positive impact in the state. But he also pointed out that a related issue, illegal immigration, is tied in with NAFTA because agricultural aspects of the treaty have hurt Mexican agricultural workers and farms.
"I can't look just anecdotally at where it has helped, I want to look at, overall, can we improve this so that it's good not only for workers in Ohio and workers in Texas, but also good for workers in Mexico who right now can't support themselves and end up coming here and potentially depressing U.S. jobs as well," Obama told reporters on a campaign flight from Austin to Beaumont, Texas.
Clinton, campaigning in Ohio, continued to push hard on the negative aspects of NAFTA and other treaties that she said make too many concessions and don't win enough in return.
"We're tired of being treated like patsies. We're going to have reciprocal trade, or we're not going to continue to let our market be open when other markets are not," Clinton told reporters while campaigning in the southern Ohio community of Hanging Rock.
Daley believes NAFTA has come to stand as a kind of shorthand for everything from the flight of manufacturing jobs to concerns about product quality to the growing U.S. trade deficit. The debate over NAFTA in some ways serves as a proxy for concerns over China's growing economic might.
Concerned as voters are about their jobs, fears about losing health-care coverage are in some ways a more politically volatile issue. "People understand that jobs are going to be lost in a dynamic economy. What sets them off in an apoplectic fit is when they lose their health care when that happens," Daley said.
While Obama and Clinton have said they might walk away from NAFTA if Mexico refused to reopen talks about environmental and labor protections, Obama also has said he considers the treaty so enmeshed in the U.S.-Mexico relationship that it would be nearly impossible to unravel.
Daley said the candidates must be careful not to carry their NAFTA rhetoric too far. "Saying to the Mexicans, if he were to win the presidency, 'Now, I've got a political problem here. Can we work this out?' That won't work," Daley said.
Obama, Daley added, "has given himself enough wiggle room to not walk away from the treaty, which he won't."
Daley said no one should be surprised that both Democratic candidates want to reopen the NAFTA treaty. "I don't think that, just because you entered an agreement 15 years ago, it's sacrosanct," he said.
NAFTA is one issue on which Clinton's role as former first lady has come into question.
Acknowledging that reports vary on whether or not Clinton supported her husband's trade treaty at the time, Daley said the only criticism he heard was about her concern that a fight over NAFTA might jeopardize her efforts to focus the Clinton administration's attention and political capital on the major health-care-reform plan that she designed.
President Clinton pushed ahead with both plans together, winning the NAFTA vote but losing the health-care battle.
"I know she had a real problem with the timing of NAFTA and health care," Daley said.
NAFTA was a contentious issue within Bill Clinton's inner circle. A group led by adviser George Stephanopoulos held deep reservations, while a faction led by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin favored it.
"If [Hillary Clinton] opposed NAFTA at the time, I can't say I personally had any knowledge of that," Daley said.
One thing that hasn't changed: Knocking NAFTA still plays to voters. "For 15 years, NAFTA has been the rallying cry for everything that's wrong with the economy," Daley said. "But is that an economic plan? No. Is it a jobs program? No. Can you win just by bashing NAFTA? No."
Bill Daley NAFTA LAbor Union Sellout |
February 29, 2008 7:19 PM
Didn't sound like he called out Daley to me, he was bashing Barack "Osama" Obama, and made a few comments on the rest of the clowns in our federal government.
March 3, 2008 3:24 PM