We hosted a press call yesterday with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), and Leo Gerard of the Steelworkers. The topic was the role of trade in the election, which in the wake of NAFTA-memo-gate is even clearer. Green brought up the vital point that trade is not just an Ohio issue - it plays in Texas as well.
And we talked about a lot more too. The Canadian wires reported on the fall out from NAFTA-memo gate:
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said the flap probably had only a minor effect on the outcome because both candidates were offering a welcome change on trade policy.
"The Canada thing was much ado about nothing, I think, to most voters," he said in a call with U.S.-based reporters.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers Union, said he agreed with Brown. But Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, part of the Washington-based advocacy group Public Citizen, said it may have helped stop Obama's momentum.
Obama was 24 points behind Clinton when he started campaigning in Ohio and managed to close much of that gap, partly by criticizing her for supporting NAFTA when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, Wallach said.
The memo helped "blur the distinction" that Obama was trying to make between himself and Clinton on NAFTA and may help explain why he stopped rising in the polls shortly before the vote in Ohio, she said.
The domestic wires reported:
The next U.S. president needs to fundamentally redirect U.S. trade policy to preserve manufacturing jobs and reduce the huge trade deficit -- not just tinker with the North American Free Trade Agreement, critics of U.S. trade deals said on Wednesday.
"We need to change the whole discussion about investment, about subsidies, about enforcement of trade laws," said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union. "How does any country continue to prosper when it's accumulating an average annual trade deficit of about $700 billion per year?"...The two candidates have talked mainly about adding enforceable labor and environmental provisions to the pact.But Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said it was more important in the short term to change the agreement's investment provisions because they encourage U.S. companies to move jobs to Mexico.
And finally, BNA reports that:
“I appreciate that the leading Democratic candidates had a spirited discussion about NAFTA, but the fact of the matter is you can’t fix NAFTA” by simply adding environmental and labor provisions, [Gerard] said. “We need to sit down and negotiate within the House and Senate a new set of trade rules that will create jobs in America.”
Gerard, who opposes the other pending deals, also said his union and other allies would work to put trade on the top of the issues in the general election in November. He added that he thinks Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican nominee, has gotten a “free ride” and should be criticized for supporting European company Airbus in a Department of Defense contract for an in-air refueling plane.
On the same phone call, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a vocal trade critic, said that both Clinton and Obama offer a different trade policy, but McCain is essentially “running for a third Bush term.”
And you can find out more about those domestic issues here.
The electorate's focus on the trade issue will grow heading into the April Pennsylvania primary and the general election in November, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach said March 5.
"There is no way to avoid this issue in the Pennsylvania primary, and it will only become a brighter line wedge issue in the general election," Wallach said...
"NAFTA is just a proxy for the broader set of issues," Wallach said. There are changes not yet being brought up by the candidates that are necessary in the trade regime for the success of a future president's domestic policy priorities, she remarked.
(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)