Thursday, March 6, 2008

NAFTA-gate – Some clarification please!

By Joel Wendland

A Canadian news report this week revealed that Hillary Clinton's campaign called Canadian diplomats to warn them that her own campaign posturing about NAFTA was to be "taken with a grain of salt."

In the days before the March 4th primary, Hillary Clinton scored some points with Ohio voters, who understand that NAFTA has decimated their manufacturing economy, when an illegally leaked Canadian government memo appeared to indicate that Barack Obama's pledge to revisit NAFTA was not sincere.

What didn't make it into Clinton campaign memos or much of the media punditry that swiftly followed was that memo also described Obama's commitment to renegotiating the trade agreement on the issue of jobs and the environment and making them "core principles" of the agreement, something labor and environmental activists failed to win under the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

A report in the Washington Post, Mar. 4, quoted the Canadian memo as saying, that Obama is "in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more 'core' principles of the agreement."

Yesterday, Mar. 5, the Canadian-based Globe and Mail, reporting on the Canadian government's internal investigation of the illegal leak of the memo, revealed that, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff Ian Brodie, the Clinton campaign called Canadian diplomats to ease their worries about their own denunciations of NAFTA:

Quoting The Globe and Mail:
Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing.

The Canadian Press cited an unnamed source last night as saying that several people overheard the remark.

The news agency quoted that source as saying that Mr. Brodie said that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign called and was "telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt."

In other words, while ranting and raving about perceived misstatements by an Obama campaign adviser, the Clinton campaign had done the very thing she had denounced.

So let's get some clarification. On one of the most crucial issues facing working families – how trade affects jobs – we are getting a muddy picture. We need clear outlines on how job growth will be promoted, what kinds of policies will rebuild the manufacturing sector with good unions jobs?

The question of jobs and the economy are so important, now is not the time to play games. NAFTA is no joke, and working families are coming to understand that because the agreement failed to include real protections for jobs and the environment back when the Clinton administration pushed so strongly for its passage, it helped move jobs out of the country by making exports to the US cheap.

We know that the John McCain alternative is to accept job losses and to push more corporate loopholes and tax breaks that will move more jobs out of the economy. McCain told Ohio voters during a campaign stop there that they are just going to have to get used to it. "Have people lost jobs?" he said. "Yes, they have, and they're gonna lose jobs."

So to the Democratic candidates: no more games.

No comments: