This week was a big one for trade on the trail.
"Clinton Pledges to Revisit Trade Deals" says the Financial Times:
"I think it is time that we assess trade agreements every five years to make sure they’re meeting their goals or to make adjustments if they are not,” she said in a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which stages the first caucus vote in the presidential nomination process next January. “And we should start by doing that with Nafta.”
"We have to change our economic course just as we have to change course in Iraq and change course when it comes to healthcare,” she said.
In addition to the five-year trade reviews, Mrs Clinton said she would appoint a federal trade enforcement officer who would monitor compliance with trade agreements.
She also pledged to expand the trade assistance adjustment programme, which retrains manufacturing workers who lose their jobs when employers relocate to other countries.
She would extend the TAA to redundant service sector workers, whose jobs have mostly been “offshored” to India, and to workers whose employers have relocated to countries that have no trade agreements with the US, such as China.
Women's Wear Daily does a good job of laying out all of the candidates' positions. Here are some highlights:
Fred Thompson: "I was one of the strictest advocates of imposing restrictions on the Chinese for their behavior of exporting dangerous materials to countries and tying some of our trade policies to what they did in that regard...They still have not done enough...but in terms of turning our backs on free trade, that's not the direction to go."
Rudy Giulliani: "We can't say that because these agreements weren't perfect, because they have problems, we're going to turn our backs on free trade...We're a country that depends on exports and we're also an entrepreneurial country."
Hillary Clinton: "The Bush administration has filed roughly the same number of enforcement actions under our trade agreements that were filed during one year of the Clinton administration...That is unacceptable. When I'm president, we're going to start enforcing them again and we're not going to enter into them unless we think they're going to be good for American workers."
Barack Obama: "We wholly agree with the labor movement that labor and environmental provisions have to be included in the core of labor agreements. Business has said historically that it couldn't be done until now," the [Obama] aide said, referring to an agreement Democratic leaders reached with the Bush administration to include stronger labor and environmental provisions in four pending trade agreements.
Mitt Romney: "has pressed Congress to act immediately on two pending trade deals with Colombia and Peru, a campaign spokesman said."
(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)
And big news this week: Obama supports NAFTA expansion to Peru. In the Sacramento Bee:
An older man wanted Obama to say he wouldn't vote to approve the Peru Free Trade Agreement. The man predicted it wouldn't help workers in Peru or the United States. He said NAFTA and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) had helped only stockholders and increased illegal Mexican immigration.
Obama agreed that NAFTA and CAFTA hadn't helped American workers. He noted that he wasn't yet in the Senate when NAFTA was passed, and he voted against CAFTA. But he said the Peru agreement was different because it "contains the very labor agreements that labor and our allies have been asking for."
The man shook his head violently, saying, "I beg to differ with you, sir."
And at a Wall Street Journal-CNBC Republican presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan focused on the economy, candidates had this to say:
Duncan Hunter: We made tens of thousands of tanks in Michigan. Today, we could not do that because we've fractured the great industrial base of this country and we pushed it offshore with bad trade deals.
And I would say to my colleagues and Senator Thompson and the other senators, you all voted for "most favored nation" trading status for Communist China. That set the groundwork for 1.8 million high- paying manufacturing jobs moving offshore, going offshore, some of them never to return.
Fred Thompson: Free and fair trade as been good for America; responsible for millions of jobs in this country. We cannot turn our back on that.
Moderator: President Bush says trade is still good for America. Are you a Bush Republican on trade?
Romney: Well, I believe in trade, but I believe in opening up markets to American goods and services. And it's been calculated that the average family in America is $9,000 a year richer because we have the ability to sell products around the world.
And a lot of people in this country make their living making products that go around the world. But it's also true that the people who negotiate these agreements -- the people who sit down with the Chinese and sit down the Mexicans and others are people, by and large, who spent their life in politics.
And the politicians come together and try to understand how the economy works. I think I'm probably the only guy on the stage who spent most of his career in the business world. I understand how the economy works.
Rudy Giuliani: …we have to improve our free trade agreements. I think you've got to almost separate them into two different categories. There's economic protection and then there's protection for safety, security, and legal rights.
And I don't think we've done a particularly good job on the second, and we have to improve those agreements.
But we can't throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can't say, because these agreements weren't perfect, because they have problems, because they have issues, we're going to turn our back on free trade.
Tom Tancredo: ...when you trade with people who are your potential enemy, and they have shown a willingness to use that economic opportunity to actually increase their threats to the United States, I'm not for trading with them at all.
Moderator: Governor Romney suggested that one reason our trade problems are so bad is that the negotiators for the Bush administration don't understand business well enough. Do you think that's part of the problem?
Tancredo: No. The negotiators for the Bush administration -- probably the worst vote I ever cast was the vote to give the president fast track. Wish I'd have never done it. And I'll tell you why. Because everything I have seen subsequent to that time has been a package -- a trade package that I certainly am concerned about from this standpoint.
Not necessarily just the trade issues that we're involved in. I mean, you know, talking about the tariffs. CAFTA -- here was a bill over a thousand pages long to do what, to reduce tariffs between the six Central American countries and the United States? That was about a paragraph, right?
That’s it for this week – I know, it’s a lot.
Here is some other recommended reading on this week’s whirlwind in trade:
USA Today: Clinton seeks to re-evaluate NAFTA
TaylorMarsh.com: The Talented Mr. Obama
WorkingAssetsBlog.com: The Offshoring of Hope: Obama Now Misleads Voters About NAFTA Expansion
Associated Press: SEIU Won't Endorse for Dem Primary
This is clearly not an exhaustive list. Feel free to post more links to relevant articles in the comments.