Democracy Soup

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Barack Obama’s openness on improving free trade will help him in November

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Originally published on on Fri, 06/20/2008 – 10:16am

Barack Obama’s stance on renegotiating trade issues with Canada and Mexico hasn’t really changed, even if the specifics of NAFTA are up in the air.

Obama did say in March he would renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA). And Obama told Fortune magazine for its upcoming issue that “sometimes during campaigns, the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified.”

But here is where it gets interesting. From Fortune magazine:

Obama said he believes in “opening up a dialogue” with trading partners Canada and Mexico “and figuring to how we can make this work for all people.”

That still sounds like NAFTA could still be renegotiated, and as I have mentioned before, Canada and Mexico would also love to renegotiate NAFTA for their own “selfish” reasons.

And this is more than John McCain has said so far, but McCain is speaking in Canada’s capital of Ottawa. In the speech McCain is supposed to come out in favor of keeping NAFTA as is.

The CBC quotes McCain this week as saying, “To say that we’re going to unilaterally renegotiate treaties with our closest allies, Canada and Mexico, I think is a course that is fraught with great difficulties.”

McCain comment doesn’t reflect any awareness of the stances of NAFTA from Canada or Mexico. And McCain’s reluctance, at least so far, to in Obama’s words be up for “opening up a dialogue” with trading partners Canada and Mexico, is very short-sighted. Even if McCain thinks Obama went too far in his remarks in March, McCain hasn’t gone anywhere.

And while the governments of Canada and Mexico love NAFTA more than their citizens do, there are issues where both governments would love to change NAFTA. So Obama’s original statement in March and his current revision would still go over well in the two neighboring countries.

But as a Canada-ophile, McCain’s visit is huge: his trip to Ottawa is believed to be the first appearance on Canadian soil of an American presidential candidate. Obama may have to make a trip himself north of the border at some point to make his case as well.

And McCain’s appearance is a startling contrast to the appearances by fellow Republican George W. Bush. Bush’s 1976 DUI in Maine makes him ineligible to enter Canada without a waiver, plus he has spent preciously little time on Canadian soil. So McCain entering without any fanfare, and while still a candidate, is a big deal.

But in free trade, Obama has to make a decision as does McCain. Which way are you going on free trade?

McCain seems poised in his speech in Ottawa to praise NAFTA and its take on free trade. And while we assume that McCain is playing to his base in taking that stand, many people who vote Republican or independents who might be in McCain’s camp have been financially screwed by free-trade agreements. You can say a lot of these people have voted against their economic interests (Reagan Democrats), but McCain doesn’t have the charm and firepower to overcome economic concerns, especially as bad as the current economic state reflects on their lives.

McCain’s speech may be lapped up by the economic conservatives, but the social conservatives, those who really know how much a gallon of milk costs, aren’t going to be happy. Obama’s views, while slightly shifted, still allows an openness in improving trade with Canada, the U.S.’ largest trading partner, and Mexico. If McCain can’t match that, Obama will have a significant edge in the fall in the economic column among crucial Independents and Republicans.


Written by democracysoup

June 20, 2008 at 10:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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