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Hillary Clinton And NAFTA

by @ 12:32 pm on March 3, 2008. Filed under 2008 Election, Business, Economics, Hillary Clinton, Politics

While campaigning in Ohio, Hillary Clinton has claimed that she was against the North American Free Trade Agreement from the beginning. As Barack Obama has noted, it’s very convenient for her to say that now because she never took a public position on the treaty as First Lady.

So what was her position ?

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says that Hillary was cool toward NAFTA, but it wasn’t because she was concerned about free trade:

The answer is HRC didn’t want the Administration to move forward with NAFTA, but not because she was opposed to NAFTA as a policy. She opposed NAFTA because of its timing. She wanted her health-care plan to be voted on first. She feared that the fight over NAFTA would use up so much of the White House’s political capital that there wouldn’t be enough left when it came to pushing for health care.

In other words, she opposed NAFTA for purely selfish reasons.

On the more important issue of free trade, though, Reich makes some very good points:

It’s a shame the Democratic candidates for president feel they have to make trade – specifically NAFTA – the enemy of blue-collar workers and the putative cause of their difficulties. NAFTA is not to blame. Consider the numbers. When NAFTA took effect, Ohio had 990,000 manufacturing jobs. Two years later, in 1996, it had 1,300,000 manufacturing jobs. The number stayed above a million for the rest of the 1990s. Today, though, there are about 775,000 manufacturing jobs in Ohio. What happened? The economy expanded briskly through the 1990s. Then it crashed in late 2000, and the manufacturing jobs lost in that last recession never came back. They didn’t come back for two reasons: In some cases, employers automated the jobs out of existence, using robots and computers. In other cases, employers shipped the jobs abroad, mostly to China – not to Mexico.

Ohio’s problems, and those in other states, have nothing to do with NAFTA and everything to do with an economy that is changing whether we want it to or not.

H/T: Matthew Yglesias

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