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Bill Richardson on Free Trade

Democratic Governor (NM); Secretary of Commerce-Designee


Ban contaminated toys and food from China

We should have a relationship and recognition that China is a strategic competitor. Our relationship with China today is clearly one sided. I’d be tougher when it comes to trade, I’d be tougher with China when it comes to human rights. They need to be doing a lot more on genocide in Darfur, they need to take accidents where they protect their workers, where they have constitutional elections. We also have to make sure that China trades on an equitable basis when the US. We ought to ban these toys they’re bringing in. We ought to ban some of the contaminated food they’re bringing in. But we must recognize, too, that China’s a major power, and we have to have an important, strategic relationship with them. I would be stronger, as I said, with China when it comes to human rights and trade. I would tell them they cannot continue playing around with currencies. They control a large part of our debt.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate , Dec 13, 2007

No such thing as completely free market; so regulate

Generally, trade helps nations & people understand each other better. Trade levels the economic playing field. But it is crucial to make sure our trade agreements require fair labor practices and basic environmental safeguards.

If China can fairly make shirts cheaper than Americans, we’ll need to make something we’re better at making. But if the Chinese shirt is cheaper only because their workers make sweatshop wages and the owners pour chemicals into local rivers, we can’t go along.

I’m not sure a lot of the advocates of free trade understand the difference between free & fair trade. All goods cost something to make, but it matters what gets calculated in the cost: whether it’s raw materials, or human rights, or the cost of defending oil transport routes, or damage to the environment.

In the real world, there is no such thing as completely free trade. All trade needs to have regulatory sideboards to prevent a cost-reduction competition via the exploitation of people and the environment.

Source: Leading by Example, by Bill Richardson, p.205-206 , Oct 26, 2007

Communism is teaming up with corporations to open up China

Today we say that communism is dead, but it is successfully teaming up with corporations, in places like China.

There are few areas at which communism is more efficient than capitalism, but one is ruining the environment. It took the US capitalist free-market economy hundreds of years to achieve the same levels of environmental destruction that China, at its current pace, will achieve in about 20.

China’s economic officials predict that China will build another coal-based electric-generating unit every week for the next decade. Why would China decide, on its own, to use more expensive, climate-friendly, carbon-clean technologies? Especially when it sees the US refusing to adopt carbon limits and expanding its own carbon emissions every year?

We must find a way, not only to agree with China and India on the technologies, energy investments, and emissions limits that will create some future security for our climate, but also to assure them that they will have the energy they need.

Source: Leading by Example, by Bill Richardson, p. 89-92 , Oct 26, 2007

Enforce labor & environmental standards & job safety

Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?

A: We should never have another trade agreement unless it enforces labor protection, environmental standards and job safety. What we need to do is say that from now on, America will adhere to all international labor standards in any trade agreement--no child labor, no slave labor, freedom of association, collective bargaining--that is critically important--making sure that no wage disparity exists.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum , Aug 7, 2007

Fair trade includes no slave labor & no child labor

What we need is trade agreements, fair trade agreements where we say, no slave labor, no child labor; we’re not going to have--we’re going to have environmental protection; we’re going to have to deal with wage disparity. And also, I would have a different attitude toward the private sector. I would say to the private sector, what is it going to take to keep you here?
Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University , Jun 28, 2007

We need fair trade, not just unabashed free trade

Q: Should further rounds of the World Trade Organization agreements incorporate internationally recognized workers rights?

A: What I believe we need in this country is fair trade, not just unabashed free trade. What I would do is, first of all, any future international trade agreement should have the following components as part of the law, not as a side agreement.

  1. Worker protections, because this is critically important comparing work standards in America and in other countries.
  2. We should have environmental protections. One of the unfortunate sides of NAFTA, which I supported, was that it was supposed to improve air quality. It hasn’t happened. So there has to be very, very strong labor protections and environmental protections.
  3. Last, wage disparities. I think it’s critically important that any future trade agreement look what other countries have in terms of wages and find ways to promote equity in those wage disparities. But we are in a global world.
Source: 2007 AFSCME Democratic primary debate in Carson City Nevada , Feb 21, 2007

NAFTA critically important for US as well as Mexico

NAFTA was critically important, and not only for the reasons commonly cited by its supporters. Yes, the treaty would create the world’s largest free-trade region, a market of 360 million people in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Estimates of NAFTA’s economic impact varied, but the treaty promised to be a win-win-win for all three countries.

That didn’t mean the absence of dislocation: while NAFTA figured to create more jobs in the US, some jobs would be lost. A key part of the final bill presented to Congress needed to include worker-adjustment programs and other so-called side agreements addressing such issues as labor standards and the environment.

I felt the treaty was crucial to Mexico. I thought NAFTA would create positive economic change and help to stimulate a broader political debate. I thought it also had the potential to affect the immigration issue: if Mexico’s economy boomed, beter-paying jobs would provide Mexicans an incentive to stay home.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.112-3 , Nov 3, 2005

Expand regional trade with Chihuahua

This morning, I had a very productive meeting with the honorable governor of Chihuahua, Patricio Martinez. If I am fortunate enough to be elected governor of New Mexico in November, I have pledged to Governor Martinez that I will work closely with him to increase trade and to help build a regional economy that is good for New Mexico-and for El Paso and Chihuahua.

Specifically, we have agreed to create a functional New Mexico-Chihuahua Economic Development Commission. The two of us will co-chair this commission that will include cabinet secretaries and business leaders from both states. We will meet monthly-and rotate between Santa Fe, and Chihuahua, and our respective border communities.

The purpose of this commission will be to increase trade. We will do this by developing, and implementing, a regional economic development plan with specific goals, timetables and assignments. The most important message I can deliver today is that we are one region.

Source: Campaign web site, RichardsonForGovernor.com, “Priorities” , Oct 24, 2002

Supports NAFTA, GATT, & WTO

Q: Do you support broadening North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to include other countries?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support the WTO?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support imposing tariffs on products imported from nations that maintain restrictive trade barriers on American products?

A: No.

Q: Should a nation’s human rights record affect its “most favored nation” trading status with the United States?

A: Yes.

Source: 1996 Congressional National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1996

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Free Trade.
  • Click here for policy papers on Free Trade.
  • Click here for a profile of Bill Richardson.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Bill Richardson.
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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013