Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama and McCain on Trade

I wanted to examine free trade accords not only their own, but in the context of the larger foreign policies put forth by candidates Obama and McCain.

Put simply, the differences could not be more stark. McCain is an avowed free trader, while I have yet to find a free trade accord that Obama has not opposed! In this respect, he represents a great departure from former President Clinton, who bucked heavy union pressure to get NAFTA passed through Congress.

There has been much activity recently with regard to free trade. CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Accord, was narrowly passed on a party-line vote in 2005 with 217 Congressmen (mostly Republicans) voting for, and 215 (mostly Democratic) Congressmen voting against.

The US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement was signed on April 12, 2006 and is currently being implemented.

Sadly, since my Democrats took over the majority in the House and Senate with the mid-term elections of November 2006, all progress toward further free trade agreements has stalled. Speaker Pelosi has frozen votes on the Colombia Free Trade Accord, and is obviously in no hurry to approve the South Korea-US Free Trade Accord or the Panama Free Trade Accord.

This stance, which Senator Obama sadly champions, is a betrayal of our close friends and allies. In the case of Central America, Panama and Colombia in particular, to oppose the free trade accords with those nations after the decades of hard work they've done to reduce the violence of their various civil wars is just inexplicable. Especially since the Democrats always championed the "soft power" of economic engagement with those nations, in contrast to the hawkish policies of the Reagan 80s they so criticized.

It's all part of a dangerous trend where the U.S, the greatest beneficiary of and champion of free trade, is turning away from that pillar of our success just as the rest of the world is coming around.

Senator Obama can pander to the reactionaries of right and left from Pat Buchanan to Lou Dobbs to Michael Moore all he wants. It's one of the many reasons he's lost my vote, and for his unstinting support of free trade Senator McCain has yet again earned my vote.

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