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Democrats Trading Barbs on Trade

One of the legacies of President Clinton's tenure, pushing his party to embrace more international trade agreements, is coming under fire in the 2008 Democratic presidential process. At a speech today in front a regional convention of the United Auto Workers in Dubuque, Iowa, Illinois Senator Barack Obama implied Hillary Clinton had flip-flopped on the issue.

"When a candidate rails against NAFTA today, it's fair to ask her where she was with NAFTA 20 years ago," said Obama. "You don't just suddenly wake up and say NAFTA is a terrible thing when you were for it before."

Obama was referring to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement that eliminated the majority of tariffs between products traded among the United States, Canada and Mexico, which was passed at President Clinton's urging in 1993 despite the active opposition of many congressional Democrats. While academic studies have generally argued that trade deals like NAFTA have benefited the U.S. economy, as concerns about the economy are growing among Americans, trade deals have become part of the dispute. Some Democrats worry the trade deals contribute to U.S. jobs heading overseas.

In the presidential campaign, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards has railed against NAFTA and other such trade agreements. In his speech today, Obama said NAFTA needed to be reviewed. Clinton has suggested NAFTA and other trade deals should be reexamined, although she issued a careful statement last week saying she supports a trade agreement with Peru that both George W. Bush and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi have backed. Edwards is criticizing his opponents on the agreement, which Obama says he also supports.

--Perry Bacon Jr.

By Washington Post editors  |  November 13, 2007; 2:31 PM ET
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For the record, NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement, not the North Atlantic FTA. If anyone believes any politician who states they will re-examine our trade agreements probably believes that we will pull out of Iraq the day after the inauguration. The US economy is more integrated into the global economy than any other country in the world and it should aim to do so. Political pundits and the media call this the "silly season" for a reason.

Posted by: duaine.priestley | November 13, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Is there even a shred of useful information in this article? Is it too much to ask the Washington Post treat this election seriously? Jeez.

Posted by: zukermand | November 13, 2007 4:54 PM | Report abuse

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