What Does Obama Really Think About NAFTA?
MARCH 04, 2008
As the federal corruption trial of Barak Obama’s good friend and top fundraiser got going this week, a national media outlet exposed a damaging government memo stating that the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign promise to rework an international trade pact is rhetoric to appease constituents in key primary states that oppose the deal.
Implemented in 1994, the pact (North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada eliminated most tariffs on products traded among the countries thus removing most barriers to trade and investment among them.
NAFTA is strongly opposed in economically depressed Ohio, which holds its presidential primary today. Obama said in a crucial Cleveland debate last week that he would renegotiate or even opt out of NAFTA, the world’s largest trading partnership, if it doesn’t create more protections for workers and the environment.
It turns out that the Illinois senator has no such intentions and was only making politically motivated promises, according to an official Canadian government memo that the Obama campaign would rather keep private. Written by a Canadian consulate staffer after a Chicago meeting with a top Obama advisor named Austan Goolsbee, the document contradicts the senator’s NAFTA promises.
The memo read, in part: "Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."
The meeting was first reported last week by a Canadian television network, which said that Goolsbee assured the Canadians that Obama’s NAFTA tough talk is just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously. Not surprisingly, the Obama campaign denied there was any inconsistency between what the candidate said publicly and what advisers said privately.
Additionally, Obama must deal with the negative publicity surrounding the federal corruption trial of his good pal and top donor, Antoin Rezko. Jury selection began this week in the Chicago trial that stars the senator’s biggest financial backer, indicted of pressuring firms seeking state business to pay kickbacks or campaign contributions to his favorite politicians.
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