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Milenio | 27 Feb 2008
Freely translated by Anoosha Boralessa (June 2015); not revised by bilaterals.org or any other organization or person.
Obama and Clinton: Anti-NAFTA
The United States. The former First Lady gave Mexico and Canada a time limit of six months to amend the NAFTA agreement.
Two aspiring candidates for the democratic presidential nomination made it clear in the Ohio debate that the US will abandon NAFTA if its environmental and labour standards are not renegotiated.
Yesterday, the aspiring democrats for the White House, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama both guaranteed that if they became the US president, they would have the US withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) unless it was renegotiated. The two state parties to the treaty are Canada and Mexico.
“We will pull out (of NAFTA) unless the main environmental and labour standards are not negotiated.”
So affirmed Clinton when the two candidates debated yesterday in Cleveland, Ohio, an industrial state that both candidates believed had been adversely affected by the treaty. The primaries will take place here on 4 March - elections that may be decisive.
Then Obama reassured:
“I think Senator Clinton’s response on this [question] is correct. I believe that we should use the hammer of a potential exit as a lever so that we can be sure that labour and environmental standards actually are implemented.”
“I would say to (Mexico and Canada) that we will exercise our option to exit (in six months) unless we renegotiate it.”
“I would want to satisfy myself that we will renegotiate with Mexico and Canada … I will threaten them with the stick of “exiting” to ensure concluding labour and environmental agreements that can be complied with."
Bill Clinton (Hilary’s spouse) negotiated NAFTA in 1993, when he was president. He succeeded in having the agreement approved with the support of the republicans and with the democrats opposing. However, Hilary indicated that, as First Lady, she had not taken a position on the matter. But both [Obama and Clinton] were challenged by the moderator, Tim Russert. He pointed out that both Clinton and Obama had adopted positions in support of NAFTA prior to becoming presidential candidates. For example, in 2004 Clinton expressed the view that NAFTA was “on the whole” good for the United States. Obama has made similar comments. Although both agreed that NAFTA had been successful in certain parts of the country, they hammered home their opposition to an agreement that many in the US considered responsible for job losses in traditional manufacturing states such as Ohio.
“We need to sort NAFTA out. It is not working. Unfortunately, it disadvantages our industries, especially manufacturing industries. Let’s take a tough position on these agreements.”
Obama said that it was clear that Senator Clinton had changed her position on NAFTA; that now she was in favour of more robust labour and environmental agreements. He emphasized “and I think that this is a good thing.”
In a televised interview last year, Bill Clinton himself challenged the position his wide was adopting – that agreements such as NAFTA had been detrimental to US workers. Bill Clinton went on to say that rejecting NAFTA would have “devastating” effects for the US’s relationship with Mexico. He indicated that its approval was good not only for the country, and that its negative effects were not as advanced.
The debate kicked off with the controversy on the accuracy of brochures in which the Obama Campaign gave a guarantee that Clinton had said that NAFTA was good for the economy. Clinton assured that the information in the leaflets was “misleading” and challenged Obama’s tactics. At the same time she denied knowing whether her campaign leaked a photo of the Illinois senator dress in traditional African garb. Obama defended the brochures on NAFTA and said that they were no different to the “negative attacks” cast by the Clinton campaign.