The Campaign Spot

Press Noticing Obama’s NAFTA Rhetoric Has Been Traded In

The Washington Post has a fine story on Obama’s visit to Canada, recalling the controversy of his adviser, Austan Goolsbee, meeting with officials from that country last year and assuring them that the then-candidate’s NAFTA comments were “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy.”

But correspondent Michael Shear could have, and probably should have, noted that at the time, Obama insisted there was no contradiction between what Goolsbee was telling them and what he was saying on the campaign trail.

“Unbeknownst to the rest of us, they reached out to Mr. Goolsbee who provided them with a tangible conversation and repeated what we’ve said on the campaign trail. Which is that we believe in trade with Canada. We believe in trade with Mexico,” he said, but, “we think the terms of NAFTA have to be altered so that the labor standards and the environmental standards are enforceable.”

Actually, in a debate, he had gone even further: “I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.”

Apparently those labor and environmental standards that were once worth opting out over can wait:

On his first official trip abroad, President Obama warned against a “strong impulse” toward protectionism amid a global economic recession and said his effort to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement would have to wait.


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