John Edwards on Free Trade
2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)
A: What’s happened is big corporate America is driving American policy with respect to China. They get their way, and the American people lose. This is only one place that that happens, by the way. We have country-of-origin labeling laws. They’ve been in place for years, but we don’t enforce them. Why is the president of the United States not saying to the American people, to local communities, “Buy local”? It is good for the local economy. It is good for farmers. It is good on the issue of global warming. Because everything that comes from China carries an enormous carbon footprint with it.
A: What is a mistake is allowing China to operate unfettered, to send dangerous products into this country, to not have the president of the US hold them responsible for their trading obligations to the WTO, which has not been done. It was right to bring them into the WTO. It’s wrong to not hold them responsible for their obligations.
A: I think we’ve had a failed trade policy in America. The question seems to have been, on past trade agreements like NAFTA: Is this trade agreement good for the profits of big multinational corporations? And the answer to those questions on the trade agreements we’ve entered into has been yes. It’s been very good for multinational corporations. It has not been good for American workers. And in an Edwards administration, the first question I will ask in every single trade agreement we’re considering is: Is this good for middle-class working families in America? That would be the threshold question. And, second, we will have real labor and environmental standards in the text of the agreement, which I will enforce. And then finally we will end these loopholes that actually create tax incentives for companies to leave America and take jobs somewhere else.
A: It needs to be fixed, but the first thing I want to say is NAFTA is a perfect example of the bigger problem. This deal was negotiated by Washington insiders, not by anybody in this stadium tonight. And the question is, when are we going to change it? It’s cost us a million jobs. We need environmental and labor standards. We need actually the Justice Department prosecuting the standards under NAFTA.
That’s a disputed estimate. Other economic studies have produced far lower numbers. The million job figure comes from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington with ties to the labor movement. EPI estimated that the growth of exports since 1994 has supported an additional 1 million jobs in the US, while imports have displaced domestic production that would have supported 2 million jobs, leaving a net loss of 1 million. EPI’s detractors state that EPI’s estimate assumes that NAFTA is to blame for 100% of the growth in the trade deficit between the US and both Canada and Mexico and that it ignores other factors.
Whatever the effects of NAFTA, the US has gained nearly 26 million jobs since the agreement took effect on Jan. 1, 1994, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A: We have to be smarter than we’ve been about the effects of globalization. What globalization has done is created a stratification of class in America. It’s much more difficult for somebody like me, who came from a pretty modest background and now has absolutely everything, to be able to do that in the country today. There are a lot of reasons for it. Our tax structure is one reason; not having access to health care is another. But the impact of globalization has makes it much more difficult to be able to move up and for their children to have a better life.
We have to be smarter, better educated. Science, math, technology -- we need to push more kids into those areas. We need to make it easier for kids to go to college, not harder. We need more serious investment in graduate education in all those areas.
SHARPTON: I want to cancel it.
EDWARDS: I think we do need to renegotiate it. The problem with NAFTA is these side agreements don’t work. You have to put these labor/environmental protections in the text of the agreement.
Q: Will that be enough?
SHARPTON: No, I don’t think so. This cost jobs for Americans. And it is unequivocal evidence that it costs Americans jobs. People were unemployed. It also went below labor and human rights standards abroad. We need to cancel NAFTA unequivocally. We need to have standards that we would not deal with nations that would put laborers in those kinds of situations. We cannot protect American corporations and call that patriotic and not protect American workers and call that protections.
A: I believe we need trade that works for America and the world, and have outlined a new approach to trade agreements that will protect American jobs and require labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. My approach would also establish an international ‘right to know,’ so that consumers know if corporations have moved jobs overseas or engage in abusive environmental and labor standards. I would also take aggressive measures to make sure foreign markets are open to US goods and include strong environmental and labor standards in all trade deals.
EDWARDS: I didn’t vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. I voted against the Chilean trade agreement, against the Caribbean trade agreement, against the Singapore trade agreement, against final passage of fast track for this president. Gephardt has sent out mailings attacking and identifying all of us and putting us in the same category.
GEPHARDT: Well, you weren’t in Congress when NAFTA came up. But you voted for China.
A: We have lost over 3 million private sector jobs under President Bush. Two and a half million of those are manufacturing jobs. In order to protect the jobs we have I would do the following.
EDWARDS: I supported the tariffs as the time. I think they were important, given the surge of steel that had come into the US. I think it was the right thing to do. I supported it at the time. We’ve just gotten a new report, which we’re examining right now. My initial reaction is it may be time to ease off on the tariffs. It may actually be the right thing to do, given the result of the report.
But it’s not enough to just protect the jobs that we have. We have to create jobs, and particularly in those communities where the job loss has been greatest. First, I would stop these tax loopholes that give American businesses a reason to go overseas. Instead, we ought to give tax breaks to companies that’ll keep jobs right here in America. Then I would identify those places in America that have been hit the hardest, particularly by trade, and create a national venture capital fund for businesses that will locate there, give tax incentives to existing business and industry that will come there.
A: Yeah. He’s wrong. The answer is that if you look at my record, I’ve actually been very consistent [against trade deals]. And on the issue of China, bringing China into the WTO, if we have a president that will actually enforce their trading obligations, actually gives us power over controlling their trading obligations. Unfortunately, we’ve had George Bush for 7 years, who’s done none of that. We need a president who will enforce their trading obligations.
Q: A lot of us remember the Al Gore debate with Ross Perot. At that time you opposed NAFTA as well?
A: Yes. I was not in the Senate then. But when I ran for the Senate, I was very vocally opposed to NAFTA because I had seen what effect it had on the people that I grew up with.
Edwards says, "Sen. Edwards voted NO on the final passage of this bill and has expressed his opposition to the Andean Free Trade agreement. "
Write New Rules for the Global Economy
The rise of global markets has undermined the ability of national governments to control their own economies. The answer is neither global laissez faire nor protectionism but a Third Way: New international rules and institutions to ensure that globalization goes hand in hand with higher living standards, basic worker rights, and environmental protection. U.S. leadership is crucial in building a rules-based global trading system as well as international structures that enhance worker rights and the environment without killing trade. For example, instead of restricting trade, we should negotiate specific multilateral accords to deal with specific environmental threats.
The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism.
The Cato Trade Center focuses not only on U.S. protectionism, but also on trade barriers around the world. Cato scholars examine how the negotiation of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements can reduce trade barriers and provide institutional support for open markets. Not all trade agreements, however, lead to genuine liberalization. In this regard, Trade Center studies scrutinize whether purportedly market-opening accords actually seek to dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.
Studies by Cato Trade Center scholars show that the United States is most effective in encouraging open markets abroad when it leads by example. The relative openness and consequent strength of the U.S. economy already lend powerful support to the worldwide trend toward embracing open markets. Consistent adherence by the United States to free trade principles would give this trend even greater momentum. Thus, Cato scholars have found that unilateral liberalization supports rather than undermines productive trade negotiations.
Scholars at the Cato Trade Center aim at nothing less than changing the terms of the trade policy debate: away from the current mercantilist preoccupation with trade balances, and toward a recognition that open markets are their own reward.
The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
|Other candidates on Free Trade:
|John Edwards on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader