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Can Clinton’s Confession of Failure be Obama’s Catalyst to Get Trade Right?

In David Sirota’s write up “Can Clinton’s Contrition Contribution,” Sirota asks whether Bill Clinton’s frank admission that his trade policies were a failure (see here for the Eyes on Trade post) will give President Obama the impetus to deliver a real change to U.S. trade policy.

And it’s a good question.

Clinton has confessed what many people have been saying all along: his Administration’s push for trade liberalization and deregulation across many sectors has failed many in the U.S. and overseas, with its failure to produce (or even retain) jobs here domestically, and its encouragement of bad labor, environmental and safety practices here and abroad.  However, as clear as this seems, Obama would have to make some serious changes if he wants to not repeat the same errors Clinton committed. As Sirota pointed out, President Obama might be compelled “to fire the same Clinton economic aides who now work in his administration,” the same advisors that Clinton said “were wrong” on trade. Furthermore, steering away from Clinton-Bush era trade policy would mean that Obama needs to abandon the language found in leftover trade agreements like the Colombia FTA, the Panama FTA and even perhaps the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, will being branded as an 21st century trade agreement is still a relic from the former Bush Administration.

However, evidence from his campaign shows that Obama knows this, so perhaps this will be the push that he needs. Maybe, seeing Clinton’s apology will give him the impetus to begin changing these policies and prevent him for make the same mistakes that Clinton has confessed he has to live with everyday.

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Free trade is popular with Wall Street and the rich but your average middle class citizens recognizes that it is destroying our prosperity. President Obama could expand his political base by taking action to end failed trade policies and outsouring. Saving American jobs must be priority number one.

Don Juan of Austria

Clinton's comments in the link only concerned the damage done by U.S. ag exports, not the devastating effects his and Bush's trade deals have had on the U.S. labor market.

And frankly, his other comments on deregulation have no teeth. It's easy to say from retirement that your advisors made mistakes, while those advisors are STILL advisors to the current administration. It would be much more meaningful if we saw that attitude from CURRENT policymakers.

The Democrats, including Obama, know what they should do- get tough with our trading partners and Wall Street, forcing balanced trade at our borders whether our trading partners like it or not. When the Democrats campaign, they promise to do it. The fact that they don't do it, despite knowing how popular it would be, shows the power of money in our system today.

The Dems are going to take at least some losses in the 2010 elections, and even now, won't take the sensible and popular trade steps they promised in 2008 and 2006.

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