Obama said he would vote for a Peruvian trade agreement next week, in response to a question from a man in Londonderry, NH who called NAFTA and CAFTA a disaster for American workers. He said he supported the trade agreement with Peru because it contained the labor and environmental standards sought by groups like the AFL-CIO, despite the voter’s protests to the contrary. He also affirmed his support for free trade. “I am not going to say on a blanket basis that I’m going to vote against trade agreements,” Obama said. “We cannot draw a moat around the u.s. economy b/c china is still trading, India is still trading.”
Funny thing about that... neither the AFL-CIO or Change to Win is supporting the agreement. And Peru FTA critics are not calling for a moat around the economy. In fact, leading Peru FTA opponents announced legislation to make permanent poor countries' duty-free access to the U.S. market.
Waaaayy back in 2005, Obama voted against a virtually identical bill - CAFTA, which nearly half of Costa Rica's population voted against despite Bush's misleading threats of economic reprisals. In his piece for the Chicago Tribune on CAFTA, Obama argued:
I meet these workers all across Illinois, workers whose jobs moved to Mexico or China and are now competing with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour. In town meetings and union halls, I've tried to tell these workers the truth--that these jobs aren't coming back, that globalization is here to stay and that they will have to train more and learn more to get the new jobs of tomorrow.
But when they wonder how they will get this training and this education, when they ask what they will do about their health-care bills and their lower wages and the general sense of financial insecurity that seems to grow with each passing day, I cannot look them in the eyes and tell them that their government is doing a single thing about these problems. That is why I won't vote for CAFTA.
Hard to see the government has really stepped up to the plate since 2005. If anything, things have gotten worse, as Bush showed some Texas will and vetoed the Dems' most ambitious domestic policy initiative - expanding kids' health care insurance. It seems very strange to reward that veto with support for Bush's plan to expand NAFTA to Peru.
Hat tip to Sirota for the heads up.
UPDATE: JES' A REMINDER for the sake of context: Democrats came to office in 2006 by responding to their base and swing voters' demands for fair trade, and the latest polling shows this will be an important issue in the general election as well. And just take a looksie here to see how every important base group for the Democratic Party is opposing the Bush's Peru NAFTA expansion, which replicates and expands on NAFTA's harmful provisions. And the kind folks at CEPR have just laid out a reminder of the economics of our status quo trade policy, and why the Dems' working class base have not benefited from these policies.