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October 06, 2007

Trade on the Trail, Part 4

Here's what's happening with trade this week on the campaign trail:

If there was any doubt that trade was an issue not only for the Democratic primaries but also for swing and cross-over voters in the general election, this poll put that to rest. The Wall Street Journal reports on Page One in "Republicans Grow Skeptical On Free Trade:"

By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president

Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush's calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-N.Y.) said about the poll:

"Our philosophy has to be not how many protectionist measures can we put in place, but how do we invent new things to sell" abroad..."That's the view of the future. What [protectionists] are trying to do is lock in the inadequacies of the past."...

One fresh indication of the party's ideological crosswinds: Presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, who opposes the Iraq war and calls free-trade deals "a threat to our independence as a nation," announced yesterday that he raised $5 million in third-quarter donations. That nearly matches what one-time front-runner John McCain is expected to report.

And the sentiment in the field:

John Pirtle, a 40-year-old Defense Department employee in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he drifted toward the Republican Party in large part because of his opposition to abortion, but doesn't agree with the free-trade views of leading candidates.

"We're seeing a lot of jobs farmed out," said Mr. Pirtle, whose father works for General Motors Corp. Rankled by reports of safety problems with Chinese imports, he added, "The stuff we are getting, looking at all the recalls, to be quite honest, it's junk."

And more from the field, the San Mateo Daily Journal reports in "San Mateo residents mixed on presidential race:"

For Charlene Nicholson...the mere mention of Clinton’s name made her irate.

“Her husband is responsible for NAFTA and as a citizen I feel oppressed from having food forced on me from China,” she said.

The New York Sun's Russell Berman reports in "Clinton Turns on Clinton on Free Trade:"

President Clinton is closing one policy disagreement with Senator Clinton while keeping another alive, saying his wife is right to forbid the use of torture but wrong that his signature trade deal has "hurt" American workers.

In separate television interviews yesterday, the former president danced around suggestions of a serious policy difference with Mrs. Clinton, but he did open a rare sliver of daylight between them. He staunchly defended his decision in 1993 to support the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mrs. Clinton said over the summer had "hurt a lot of American workers."

Asked directly by ABC's George Stephanopoulos if he agreed that the pact had hurt workers, Mr. Clinton replied, "No."

And more on Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) trade policies from the Los Angeles Times:

On free trade -- a top-tier issue for labor unions and core Democrats -- her position is murky. Clinton has voted for at least three tariff-lowering trade deals, but voted against one. Appearing before free-trade supporters, she has praised the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which is loathed by many unions. But speaking to a union audience as a presidential candidate, Clinton said NAFTA hurt workers.

And that's it for this week's Trade on the Trail.

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

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