Aug. 7 2007
Democratic Candidates Say They Would Change Nafta Trade Pact
By Bill Arthur
(Bloomberg) — Democratic presidential contenders said they would revise the North American Free Trade Agreement if elected and contended that Republicans have neglected the nation’s infrastructure.
``Nafta is a deal that was negotiated by Washington insiders, not by anybody here tonight,’’ said former North Carolina Senator John Edwards to cheers from the audience of 17,000 union workers at a candidate forum in Chicago hosted by the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. federation of labor unions.
Senators Barack Obama of Illinois, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joseph Biden of Delaware said they would revise the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.
``Our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street, it should also be good for Main Street,’’ Obama said.
Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, whose husband pushed Nafta through Congress when he was president, said the way the agreement has been implemented has hurt America.
``I believe in smart trade, pro-American trade, trade that has labor and environmental standards, trade that’s not a race to the bottom,’’ Clinton said. ``So clearly, we have to have a broad reform in how we approach trade. Nafta’s a piece of it, but it’s not the only piece of it.’’
Noting Hurricane Katrina and the Minneapolis bridge collapse last week, the Democrats also said they would do more to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
``These guys, Republicans, have been irresponsible about our infrastructure, our security, and the safety of this country,’’ Biden said.
Clinton said the nation must invest in its infrastructure.
``This will create jobs. It will put millions of people to work’’ and improve national security, Clinton said. ``It will be at the top of my list when I am president.’’
Edwards said crumbling infrastructure problems are an example of how ``the system is rigged in Washington, D.C.’’ against working men and women.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney opened the discussion saying, ``We believe one of the people up here tonight will be our next president’’ and vowed that the organization will make its ``biggest election effort ever’’ in next year’s campaign.