Barack Obama on Free Trade
Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect
We export only 4,000 cars to Korea; that’s not free trade!
McCAIN: When Sen. Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA, the Canadians said, “Yes, and we’ll sell our oil to China.”
OBAMA: For far too long, certainly during the course of the Bush administration with the support of Sen. McCain, the
attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. And NAFTA did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements.
And what I said was we should include those and make them enforceable. In the same way that we
should enforce rules against China manipulating its currency to make our exports more expensive and their exports to us cheaper.
And when it comes to South Korea, we’ve got a trade agreement up right now, they are sending hundreds of thousands of South
Korean cars into the US. That’s all good. We can only get 4,000 to 5,000 into South Korea. That is not free trade. We’ve got to have a president who is going to advocate on behalf of American businesses and American workers and I make no apology for that
Source: 2008 third presidential debate against John McCain
Oct 15, 2008
Global trade is unsustainable if it favors only the few
This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the
few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.
Source: Speech in Berlin, in Change We Can Believe In, p.268
Jul 24, 2008
NAFTA protects corporate profits; should protect labor
Here is an excerpt from the Obama speech:
"It's a Washington where George Bush hands out billions in tax cuts year after year to the biggest corporations and the wealthiest few who don't need them and don't ask for them.
Washington where decades of trade deals like NAFTA and China have been signed with plenty of protections for corporations and their profits, but none of our environment or our workers who've seen factories shut their doors and millions of jobs disappear,
workers whose right to organize and unionize has been under assault for the last eight years.
"And it's a
Washington that has thrown open its doors to lobbyists an special interests who've riddled our tax code with loopholes that let corporations avoid paying their taxes while you're paying more."
Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p. 30
Jul 1, 2008
Supports trade & globalization but opposes CAFTA job loss
"I believe that expanding trade and breaking down barriers between countries is good for our economy and for our security, for American consumers and American workers. Globalization is a technological revolution that is fundamentally changing the world'
economy, producing winners and losers along the way. The question is not whether we should protect our workers from competition, but what we can do to fully enable them to compete against workers all over the world."
These strong words in support of
international trade and globalization are from an OpEd Obama published in the Chicago Tribune on June 30, 2005, entitled, "Why I Oppose CAFTA." But Obama also believes that trade agreements must address issues of fairness, such as labor, environmental,
and consumer safety.
The trade Obama is most concerned with is that which costs jobs in America and depresses wages here. Primarily, this is trade with developing countries who have a much lower wage structure due to their much lower cost of living.
Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p.113-114
Jul 1, 2008
Assist workers who lose globalization's race to the bottom
Obama comments, "But the larger problem is what's missing from our prevailing policy on trade and globalization--namely, meaningful assistance for those who are not reaping its benefits and a plan to succeed in a twenty-first century economy.
So far, almost all of our energy and almost all of these trade agreements are about making life easier for the winners of globalization, while we do nothing as life gets harder for American workers."
Obama adds, "But this is about more than displaced workers. Our failure to respond to globalization is causing a race to the bottom that means lower wages and stingier health and retiree benefits for all Americans.
It's causing a squeeze on middle-class families who are working in this new economy. As one downstate (Illinois) worker told me during a recent visit, 'It doesn't do me much good if I'm saving a dollar on a T-shirt in Wal-Mart, but don't have a job.'"
Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p.117-118
Jul 1, 2008
Peru trade OK because it includes labor & enviro protections
While Obama has been an advocate of free trade, he sees the need to make sure that it is fairly regulated. The original trade agreements written primarily by the law firms of big corporations were very careful to derive protections for international
property, intellectual property rights, and the enforcement of contracts necessary to do business effectively. They were almost completely devoid of any regulation to protect the consumer, the environment, or the worker.
Obama has supported trade agreements with countries like Peru that have been properly structured to include these provisions, but is insistent that trade agreements like
NAFTA be renegotiated to include such provisions.
Obama understands that we cannot allow trade with countries like China if they are not going to respect the rights of workers and consumers.
Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p.124
Jul 1, 2008
Impossible to turn back globalization; we’d be worse off
New challenges have emerged, from China and India, Eastern Europe and Brazil. Jobs and industries can move to any country with an internet connection and willing workers. Michigan’s children will grow up facing competition not just from California or
South Carolina, but also from Beijing and Bangalore.
There are some who believe that we must try to turn back the clock on this new world; that the only chance to maintain our living standards is to build a fortress around America; to stop trading with
other countries, shut down immigration, and rely on old industries. I disagree. Not only is it impossible to turn back the tide of globalization, but efforts to do so can make us worse off.
Rather than fear the future, we must embrace it.
I have no doubt that America can compete--and succeed--in the 21st century. And I know as well that more than anything else, success will depend not on our government, but on the dynamism, determination, and innovation of the American people.
Source: Speech in Flint, MI, in Change We Can Believe In, p.245-6
Jun 15, 2008
Don’t let trade policy be dictated by special interests
If we continue to let our trade policy be dictated by special interests, then American workers will continue to be undermined, and public support for robust trade will continue to erode. That might make sense to the Washington lobbyists who run
Senator McCain’s campaign, but it won’t help our nation compete. Allowing subsidized and unfairly traded products to flood our markets is not free trade.
We cannot stand by while countries manipulate currencies to promote exports,
creating huge imbalances in the global economy. We cannot let foreign regulatory policies exclude American products. We cannot let enforcement of existing trade agreements take a backseat to the negotiation of new ones.
Put simply, we need tougher negotiators on our side of the table--to strike bargains that are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street. And when I am President, that’s what we will do.
Source: Speech in Flint, MI, in Change We Can Believe In, p.257
Jun 15, 2008
Strong labor, safety, and environmental standards on trade
It is absolutely critical that we engaged in trade, but it has to be viewed not just through the lens of Wall Street, but also Main Street, which means we’ve got strong labor standards and strong environmental standards and safety standards, so we don’t
have toys being shipped in the US with lead paint on them. There are also opportunities in our economy around creating a green economy. We send $1 billion to foreign countries every day because of our addiction to foreign oil.
For us to move rapidly to cap greenhouse gases, generate billions of dollars that we can reinvest in solar and wind and biodiesel that can put people back to work. How do we get it done? The changes are only going to come about if we’re able to form
a working coalition for change. It has to be a priority for whoever the next president is to be able to overcome the dominance of the special interests in Washington, to bring about the kinds of economic changes that I’m talking about.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin
Feb 21, 2008
More Transition Assistance for displaced workers
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 10-15
Feb 2, 2008
- Improve Transition Assistance:To help all workers adapt to a rapidly changing economy, Obama would update the existing system of Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries, creating flexible education accounts to
help workers retrain, and providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs.
- Fight for Fair Trade: Obama will pressure the World Trade
Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.
- Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement:
Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers.
Enforce environmental & labor provisions in trade agreements
EDWARDS: [to Obama]: The problem with the Peru trade agreement [which Obama voted for] is you are leaving the enforcement of environmental and labor regulations in the hands of George Bush.
I wouldn’t trust George Bush to enforce anything, certainly not trade obligations.
OBAMA: Well, in a year’s time, it’ll be me who’s enforcing them.
We’re going to make sure that the right thing is being done. It is absolutely critical for us to understand that NAFTA was an enormous problem. The permanent trade relations with China, without some of the enforcement mechanisms that were in there,
that you voted for, was also a significant problem. And we’ve got to all move forward as Democrats to make sure that we’ve got trade deals that work for working people and not just for corporate profits.
Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate
Jan 21, 2008
Enforce existing safety laws against Chinese products
Q: What would you do in order to give the U.S. more leverage, to be able to deal with China at least as an equal partner? And are you willing to do that despite the consequences?
A: We have laws on the books now that aren’t being enforced. This is what
I mean in terms of us negotiating more effectively with them. Part of the problem is, is that the relationship has shifted over time. I would say toys cannot come in. We will have our own safety inspectors on the ground for food.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate
Dec 13, 2007
NAFTA needs to be amended
There’s no doubt that NAFTA needs to be amended. I’ve already said I would contact the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada to make sure that labor agreements are enforceable.
But I did want to just go back briefly to the issue of trade and human rights that you had mentioned. We have to stand for human rights, and that should be part of the trade equation.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate
Dec 13, 2007
Stand firm against CAFTA for labor & environmental standards
Fight for Fair Trade:
Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs.
He will use trade agreements to spread improved labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central Amercan Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that fail to live up to those important standards.
Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers”
Aug 26, 2007
Congress subsidizes megafarms & hurts family farmers
Q: How do you protect jobs without hurting farmers?
A: Congress subsidizes these big megafarms and hurts family farmers oftentimes in the process. And we’ve got to cap those subsidies so that we don’t have continued concentration of agriculture in the
hands of a few large agribusiness interests. But, on the trade issue generally, we’re not going to suddenly cordon off America from the world. Globalization is here, and I don’t think Americans are afraid to compete.
And we have the goods and the services and the skills and the innovation to compete anywhere in the world. But what we’ve got to make absolutely certain of is that, in that competition, we are hard bargainers. You know, I’m always struck by the
Bush administration touting that this is the MBA president and they’re such great businessmen, and they get taken to the cleaners in a lot of these trade agreements. And we’ve got to have somebody who’s negotiating on behalf of workers and family farmers
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on “This Week”
Aug 19, 2007
People don’t want cheaper T-shirts if it costs their job
Q: The flip side to fair trade: how do you convince a working family that’s struggling to get by that buying American is still best for them, when American T-shirts cost $20 and imported ones are $10?
A: Look, people don’t want a cheaper T-shirt if
they’re losing a job in the process. They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt. And I think that’s something that all Americans could agree to.
But this raises a larger point, which is: globalization is here. And we should
be trading around the world. We don’t want to just be standing still while the rest of the world is out there taking the steps that it needs to in order to expand trade.
Congress has a responsibility because we’ve got right now provisions in our tax
code that reward companies that are moving jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing right here in the US. And that is a reflection of the degree to which special interests have been shaping our trade policy. That’s something that I’ll end.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum
Aug 8, 2007
Amend NAFTA to add labor agreements
Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?
A: I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now.
And it should reflect the basic principle that our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street, it should also be good for Main Street.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum
Aug 7, 2007
Reinvest in communities that are burdened by globalization
Q: A lot of Americans are concerned with outsourcing of US jobs. What’s your solution?
A: I moved to Chicago to work with churches that were dealing with the devastation of steel plants that had closed all throughout the region. Tens of thousands of
people had been laid off. There was never a federal effort to come in after those closings and to figure out how can we retrain workers for the jobs of the future, how can we invest and make sure capital is available to create new businesses in those
communities. And so not only do we have to deal with our trade agreements, not only do we have to eliminate tax breaks for companies that are moving overseas, not only do we have to work on our education system, but we also have to have an intentional
strategy on the part of the federal government to make sure that we are reinvesting in those communities that are being burdened by globalization and not benefiting from it.
Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University
Jun 28, 2007
Insist on labor and human rights standards for China trade
The U.S. should be firm on issues that divide us [from the Beijing government] -like Taiwan-while flexible on issues that could unite us. We should insist on labor standards and human rights, the opening of Chinese markets fully to American goods,
and the fulfillment of legal contracts with American businesses-but without triggering a trade war, as prolonged instability in the Chinese economy could have global economic consequences.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ”
Jul 12, 2004
Fair trade should have tangible benefits for US
[Obama believes in] ensuring fair trade by enforcing existing trade agreements. Obama believes any trade agreement must have real, tangible benefits for U.S. business and workers and will work to enforce the trade agreements on the books.
Source: Campaign website, ObamaForIllinois.com
Jun 25, 2004
Voted YES on free trade agreement with Oman.
Vote on final passage of a bill to implement the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement.
Opponents of the bill say to vote NAY because:
- International trade can confer tremendous benefits on all of its participants. Unfortunately, the Oman Free Trade Agreement fails to live up to that potential.
- In 2001, the US entered into a similar trade agreement with the country of Jordan. The agreement was heralded for its progressive labor standards. However, we have recently seen in Jordan instances of foreign workers forced into slave labor, stripped of their passports, denied their wages, and compelled to work for days without rest.
- These incidents have been occurring in Jordan because Jordanian labor laws preclude protections for foreign workers. My fear in Oman is that they have far weaker labor standards, and that would lend itself to even worse conditions than in Jordan.
- When our trade partners are held to different, less stringent standards, no one is better off.
When Omani firms can employ workers in substandard conditions, the Omani workers and American workers both lose. The playing field is not level.
Proponents of the bill say to vote YEA because:
Reference: United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement;
Bill S. 3569
; vote number 2006-190
on Jun 29, 2006
- The Oman Free Trade Agreement sends a very important message that the US strongly supports the economic development of moderate Middle Eastern nations. This is a vital message in the global war on terrorism.
- Since the end of WWII, the US has accepted nonreciprocal trade concessions in order to further important Cold War and post-Cold War foreign policy objectives. Examples include offering Japan and Europe nonreciprocal access to American markets during the 1950s in order to strengthen the economies of our allies and prevent the spread of communism.
- Oman is quickly running out of oil and, as a result, has launched a series of measures to reform its economy. This free-trade agreement immediately removes Oman's uniform 5% tariff on US goods.
Voted NO on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade.
Approves the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States-Free Trade Agreement entered into on August 5, 2005, with the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (CAFTA-DR), and the statement of administrative action proposed to implement the Agreement. Voting YES would:
Reference: Central America Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act;
Bill HR 3045
; vote number 2005-209
on Jul 28, 2005
- Progressively eliminate customs duties on all originating goods traded among the participating nations
- Preserve US duties on imports of sugar goods over a certain quota
- Remove duties on textile and apparel goods traded among participating nations
- Prohibit export subsidies for agricultural goods traded among participating nations
- Provide for cooperation among participating nations on customs laws and import licensing procedures
- Recommend that each participating nation uphold the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
- Urge each participating nation to obey various international agreements regarding intellectual property rights
Extend trade restrictions on Burma to promote democracy.
Obama co-sponsored extending trade restrictions on Burma to promote democracy
A joint resolution approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. The original act sanctioned the ruling military junta, and recognized the National League of Democracy as the legitimate representative of the Burmese people.
Legislative Outcome: Related bills: H.J.RES.44, H.J.RES.93, S.J.RES.41; became Public Law 110-52.
Source: S.J.RES.16 07-SJR16 on Jun 14, 2007
Page last updated: Nov 22, 2009