A Canadian television station reports that staffers for Barack Obama have told Canadian officials to basically ignore the candidate’s statement’s against the North American Free Trade Agreement:
Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on NAFTA, but a senior member of his campaign team told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously, CTV News has learned.
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have been critical of the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement over the course of the Democratic primaries, saying that the deal has cost U.S. workers’ jobs.
Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama’s campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.
The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.
The Obama campaign has said that the report is “implausible” but the Canadians are clearly concerned:
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Wednesday that the candidates’ criticisms of NAFTA were misguided.
“(They) should recognize that NAFTA benefits the U.S. tremendously,” he said. “Those who speak of it as helpful to (just the) Canadian or Mexican economies are missing the point.”
Liberal MP and finance critic John McCallum told Canada AM that the U.S. pulling out of NAFTA “would be a disaster for Canada.”
But he added, “I hope and I believe that it’s politics, because they’re in a high-stakes contest. I believe after this nominee is decided, this issue will go away.”
The problem is that both candidates have been pretty clear about their desire to renegotiate the treaty (ignoring, most likely the fact that it took almost a decade to reach the original agreement) and it’s going to be difficult for them to back away from their protectionist rhetoric.
Update: Here’s a video of the CTV report: