While the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is by far no where near perfect I find myself becoming annoyed by the panderers and politicians who play upon the fears of workers and citizens and make promises they know cannot come to fruition. Despite what people think NAFTA has been good for the US, overall. Just go read the numbers. The facts are globalization is a reality and the US has far outstripped the rest of the world when it comes to succeeding in world trade.
So, why are the presidential nominees going on about how they’re going to pull out of NAFTA or get it changed to supposedly get American jobs back from those foreign lands? Do American workers realize that Canadians and Mexicans feel that the United States has unfairly taken away jobs and opportunities from them? In fact many feel the United States have profited largely at their expense, especially those in agricultural. What is often ignored in the US about lost jobs is that often these losses have nothing to do with NAFTA but instead incentives and tax breaks to increase productivity, the use of automation, investment in foreign nations, industries, and business, outsourcing jobs to foreign nations (like India), and so on. That being said that doesn’t mean measures could not be put in place to eliminate these incentives for companies to strip citizens of their jobs.
So then we come to the candidates: the indifferent, the negotiator, and the re-trainer.
Obama’s indifferent, utterly direction-less and vision-less campaign makes some bland promise about calling the leaders of Canada and Mexico in order to change the agreement. This shows his complete lack of sophistication involved with international politics and negotiation of treaties, not to mention giving an odd impression of one thinking he can simply crank up the charm and avoid the complexities involved. The other problem lay in Obama believing the government can make and control jobs that may or my not be well paying.
Clinton, being a (former?) supporter of NAFTA, at least understands the ramifications of the treaty and the need for all three nations to negotiate their concerns: United States – industry, Canada – environment, Mexico – agriculture. I like that she gives actual workable options to address US concerns in this area from both within the US by eliminating tax breaks and incentives for outsourcing, for example, as well as without. At least Clinton gives solid examples of what she would do versus the etherealness of Obama’s words.
McCain is a strong supporter of NAFTA. Despite efforts on some to demonize his support of free trade (NAFTA, CAFTA, etc) McCain has also proposed ideas to mitigate potentially lost jobs: educational opportunities, retraining, modernization, and overhauling unemployment insurance programs. All of these you would think unions would be supportive of since it ensures their members have some recourse in the event of lost jobs due to technological and trade advancements. He does seem weak on environmental concerns associated with NAFTA.