FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade

by

Photo by Nathania Johnson | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Nathania Johnson | CC BY 2.0

In her first debate with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton delivered one of her more memorable one-liners when she quipped, “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president.”

Debate rules be damned, Clinton’s supporters in the room cheered loudly, and the line quickly ricocheted across social media.

Indeed, Clinton was well prepared, especially compared to her blustery rival. Yet on one issue — trade — she seemed surprisingly caught off-guard.

Early on, when Clinton praised her husband’s economic record, Trump shot back that Bill Clinton had signed the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA, for short — which the GOP candidate called “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.”

It was a serious charge, since Hillary has often embraced Bill’s business-friendly trade policies. So it was disappointing when the best response she could offer was, “Well, that’s your opinion.”

Seriously?

Trump’s not known for his factual precision, but worthier critics have tallied up NAFTA’s extensive failures since it became law two decades ago.

The first Clinton administration promised that NAFTA would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. In fact, the consumer rights group Public Citizen noted in a 2014 report, the deal killed a million U.S. jobs in its first decade alone, and created strong downward pressure on wages for what jobs remained.

Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan were especially devastated. Trade deals liquidated over half a million manufacturing jobs in those two states alone between 1994 and 2015. No wonder Trump mentioned the pair twice.

NAFTA also uprooted over a million Mexican workers, leading to an immigration crisis that seemed to pit low-wage Americans and low-wage Mexicans against each other. Meanwhile, it won big corporations some $360 million in judgments against public interest regulations like labor laws.

In short, deals like NAFTA accelerated the job losses, immigration tensions, and spiraling inequality that created the social rot Trump is exploiting today. Yet Clinton still defends the pact’s legacy.

Pressing his advantage, Trump turned to the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP — a 12-country trade pact negotiated by the Obama administration that critics have called “NAFTA on steroids.” Consumer groups and labor unions are lobbying hard against it.

And, as he courts blue-collar voters, so is Trump.

“You were totally in favor of it,” Trump accused Clinton — correctly. Though she denied it at the debate, Clinton once called the TPP “the gold standard in trade agreements,” even as rights groups raised serious concerns about the power it would give corporations over everything from drug prices to food safety laws.

Mysteriously, the former secretary of state changed her mind about the TPP during the Democratic primary, announcing last year that she could no longer support it. Had she become a skeptic of corporate-friendly trade deals, or was she buckling under pressure from Bernie Sanders, who’d been hammering away at the TPP for years?

Nothing Clinton said in the debate gives any clue. But when Trump promised to “renegotiate” NAFTA, Clinton refused to follow suit.

If she still supports NAFTA, though, how can anyone trust her to block “NAFTA on steroids”?

For many of Clinton’s supporters, it’s enough that she simply isn’t Donald Trump. But if she fends him off, she’ll need to think long and hard about whether deals like these have any place in the “broad-based, inclusive growth” she says she wants for our country.

If she gets it wrong, the social cancers of job loss and xenophobia will only continue to fester. And we may yet see a “Trump on steroids” rise from the ashes.

More articles by:
February 21, 2018
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein’s on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail