Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been trying to outdo each other with criticism of NAFTA ahead of next week’s crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas. Both Democratic presidential candidates have threatened to withdraw from the 14-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico and Canada refuse to negotiate changes to stem losses of American jobs. (The Boston Globe, free registration)
What the commentators said
This anti-NAFTA “posturing” is shameless, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial. “Everyone in the U.S., Mexico and Canada benefits from the lower prices, higher wages and greater choice that NAFTA gives us.” The agreement “is far too integral to our economy to be kicked around like a cheap party favor to satisfy election-year whims.”
It’s ridiculous to call it pandering when someone has the temerity to suggest that NAFTA can be improved, said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, an uncommitted Democratic superdelegate, in USA Today. “If NAFTA were really a free trade agreement, it would contain just a page or two on eliminating tariffs.” Instead, it’s “an 824-page tome packed with rules to protect drug companies, banks and Wall Street investors. Safeguards for workers, the environment or food quality don't merit even a footnote.”
“Blame Canada”—it’s “an old American political game,” said the Toronto Star in an editorial. “Under George Bush's regime, it has been about security. This time, it's about trade,” and Obama and Clinton are using it in a populist bid for votes. Americans should hope that this is nothing more than campaign rhetoric, because reopening NAFTA might prompt Canada—the biggest fuel supplier to the U.S.—“to bargain for better terms” at the expense of American consumers and jobs.