Barack Obama has always seemed to have a strange strategy when it comes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. When he started his run for the White House, he vowed to renegotiate the landmark free-trade agreement to include environmental and labor “protections” long advocated by the far-left, and he repeated this position during the campaign.
Then, as the campaign made it’s way though Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where sentiment against free trade ran pretty high last year, Obama heightened that rhetoric at the same time that his advisers were apparently telling the Canadians to ignore what the candidate was saying. After the primary battle ended in June, though, Obama said that the really didn’t mean what he’d been saying in March about renegotiating NAFTA. Finally, when he became President, and in a move that clearly violated the letter and spirit of the NAFTA treaty, Obama signed legislation that placed restrictions on Mexican trucking that caused our neighbor to the south to retaliate with trade barriers of it’s own.
And, now, we get news that the Obama Administration is abandoning any efforts to renegotiate the treaty:
WASHINGTON — The administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to add labor and environmental protections, as President Obama vowed to do during his campaign, the top trade official said on Monday.
“The president has said we will look at all of our options, but I think they can be addressed without having to reopen the agreement,” said the official, Ronald Kirk, the United States trade representative. It was perhaps the clearest indication yet of the administration’s thinking on whether to reopen the core agreement to add labor and environmental rules.
Mr. Kirk spoke in a conference call with reporters after returning from a regional summit meeting that Mr. Obama attended over the weekend in Trinidad. He said that Mr. Obama had conferred with the leaders of Mexico and Canada — the other parties to the trade agreement — and that “they are all of the mind we should look for opportunities to strengthen Nafta.”
But while he said that a formal review of the 1992 pact had yet to be completed, Mr. Kirk noted that both Mr. Obama and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico had said that “they don’t believe we have to reopen the agreement now.”
Now, I don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing. On the whole, NAFTA has been a good thing for the United States and North America as a whole and the fact that Obama recognizes that is a good sign in my opinion. At the same time, it does tend to confirm what I said back in June:
I remain convinced, as I was back in March, that much of the anti-NAFTA rhetoric that Obama and Clinton were using while campaigning in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania was just that; rhetoric for the masses.
One wonders what the voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania think of it.