Nafta-gate silver lining?

At a panel I spoke at earlier this week, an official from the Canadian embassy made an interesting point: Nafta-gate netted a windfall of serious and positive coverage of Nafta and the trade relationship with Canada. In fact, he said that no amount of money could have bought such substantive and positive coverage of the importance to the US economy of trade with Canada (I paraphrase.)

Interesting. And here I was worried that it made many Democrats think that the current Canadian government was some sort of northern outpost of the McCain campaign.

But the embassy actually has a list of stories to back up the claim. Here are some of them:

NAFTA criticism is woefully misguided

San Antonio Express-News, March 8, 2008

Truth is always an endangered species during the campaign season. In the political equivalent of the survival of the fittest, natural selection often favors hyperbole and hypocrisy over plain facts.

It’s a plain fact that a system of free trade is better than a system of trade barriers and protectionist tariffs. Free trade rewards producers who have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The Anxiety Election Clinton Is Tapping Into The Voters’ Economic Worries

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8 March 2008

And Mr. Obama’s attempt to win over workers by portraying himself as a fierce critic of NAFTA looked, and was, deeply insincere — an appearance particularly costly for a candidate who tries to seem above politics as usual.

Obama’s rugged time warp

Chicago Tribune, 5 March 2008

– Obama’s and Clinton’s efforts to out-pander one another in their opposition to NAFTA probably cheered blue-collar workers in Ohio. Never mind that Canada and Mexico buy more than half of Ohio’s exports. Pandering on NAFTA in the Rust Belt is no more shameful than telling Iowa corn growers that ethanol is the elixir of the gods.

But Obama’s campaign has dealt clumsily with an Associated Press dispatch suggesting that Obama’s anti-NAFTA rhetoric “should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.” Those words come from a Canadian official’s memo written about a Feb. 8 meeting of a senior Obama adviser and Canada’s counsel general in Chicago.

The more Obama’s campaign says about this, the likelier it becomes that he’ll be seeing ads that accuse him of flip-flopping on an issue that plays very differently in different states. Better to take a position and ride it to ground.

Obama’s Border Incident

The Wall Street Journal, 4 March 2008

Barack Obama says he’ll revive the art of American diplomacy, which sounds nice. We’re not sure how this promise squares, however, with the diplomatic incident his campaign has caused in Canada, of all unlikely places.

Last week, Canada’s CTV television network reported on a leaked memo from a Canadian diplomat casting doubt on Mr. Obama’s sincerity. The memo reported that Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee, had told Canadian officials that Mr. Obama’s vow to unilaterally withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement was simply campaign rhetoric aimed at Ohio primary voters. This week, Mr. Goolsbee said that’s not what he meant at all when he attended a February 8 meeting at Chicago’s Canadian consulate. Perhaps something got lost in translation.

So negative about NAFTA

Boston Globe, 3 March 2008

PERHAPS SENATORS Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton criticized the NAFTA trade deal with Mexico and Canada at the Democratic presidential debate last week because it tripped off the tongue more easily than PNTR -the law that established Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China in 2000. Exports from China have a far greater impact on the economy of Ohio, where a crucial presidential primary will be held tomorrow, than the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement.

Democrats would rather mislead than lead on trade

Daniel ikenson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 March 2008

NAFTA went into effect six years before 2000 and has been in effect for four years since 2003. If NAFTA is to blame for job losses between 2000 and 2003, then it should get credit for manufacturing’s record performances during the 1990s and the sector’s even better performance since 2003.

If anything, trade agreements have had a moderating effect on the trade deficit. Between 2000 and 2007, the overall U.S. deficit in manufactured goods doubled from about $300 billion to about $600 billion. But with NAFTA countries, the deficit has been relatively and consistently small, at about $40 billion each year. With all free trade agreement partner countries, the deficit has been lower still, at around $25 billion per year since 2000. And with Central American Free Trade Agreement-partner countries, manufacturing trade went from a deficit averaging $1 billion every year between 2000 and 2005 to a surplus of about $1 billion per year during the two years since CAFTA was implemented.

At Best, a Pander; The Democratic candidates’ intemperate promise to renegotiate NAFTA

The Washington Post , 2 March 2008

NEVER illuminating, the Democratic presidential primary debate over trade policy took an especially dim turn last week. In their final head-to-head meeting before Tuesday’s Ohio and Texas primaries, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) declared that they would opt out of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico unless those two countries renegotiated the pact’s labor and environmental provisions to the United States’ liking. For two candidates who pledge to repair U.S. standing in the world, it was an odd swipe at our next-door neighbors. Not surprisingly, Mexican and Canadian officials recoiled at the prospect of overturning settled political and economic expectations in their countries.

Noise about NAFTA

The San Francisco Chronicle, 3 March 2008

But is NAFTA solely to blame for every economic setback? No. And is repealing it, as both candidates came close to doing in a debate last week, the best remedy? No.

More relevant factors include the competition from China, other booming Asian economies, a revived European Union and India. Also, Detroit’s auto industry which once ruled the upper Midwest is on the decline partly as a result of its own poor decisions.

Both candidates tip-toed up to the brink of a flat-out promise to shred NAFTA. They pushed notions of reforming its edges dealing with working conditions and pollution. Fine and good, but a better solution – and one neither brought up – is accepting free trade and rebuilding an outdated economic base.

NAFTA Is a Sweet Deal, So Why Are They So Sour?

Eduardo Porter, New York Times, February 11, 2008

Fourteen years after Nafta came into effect, the last remaining barriers to agricultural trade in North America were dismantled last month. Mexican corn farmers and American Big Sugar hate this unreservedly.

Last week, tens of thousands of poor Mexican farmers marched down Mexico City’s fancy Paseo de la Reforma demanding that Nafta be reversed, their cows and donkeys occasionally taking a nibble from the grass along the median strip. Florida’s sugar barons sent their lobbyists to Capitol Hill.

It Must Be Ohio

Editorial, February 24, 2008, New York Times

Ohio, which has lost almost a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs since 2000, is feeling the pain of globalization. Yet what the voters deserve to hear (and are unlikely to hear from the Republicans) are honest answers about how government can help them adapt.

Instead, both Democratic candidates were sending out mailers last week denouncing each other’s presumed support for the 14-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Stop Hating on NAFTA

Carlos M. Gutierrez, Washington Post, March 1, 2008

Recently, NAFTA has become something of a four-letter word, blamed for every economic ill. Some have even said they’d support American withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement. That would be a disaster. Quitting NAFTA after 14 years would damage the U.S. economy, U.S. workers, U.S. farmers and U.S. communities.

With NAFTA, our economy remains the envy of the developed world. In fact, by most indicators, America has outperformed the average of the Group of Seven nations. Since 1993, our economy has grown 54 percent and more than 25 million net jobs have been created. In the 14 years before NAFTA, our nation’s average unemployment rate was 7.1 percent. From 1994 to 2007, the average was 5.1 percent. U.S. manufacturing has grown at nearly 4 percent annually since NAFTA was enacted, nearly double that of the previous 14 years.

Halt Democratic attacks on NAFTA

Roy Sharp, Arizona Republic, Mar. 13, 2008

Regarding “Protectionism yields mostly false promises” (Opinions, Friday): Kudos to Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb for his excellent explanation of the real impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement and international trade.

I hope Democrats read Robb’s column and compare his findings with that of Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s attack on NAFTA to win support from the unions who continually use NAFTA as a scapegoat for their own economic failures.

Democrats’ NAFTA bashing hurts U.S. interests

Dean Kleckner, Des Moines Register, March 14, 2008

There’s always the hope that these politicians don’t quite mean what they say. The Obama campaign recently found itself embroiled in a controversy over its true intentions with respect to NAFTA. On Feb. 8, Obama’s top economics adviser, Austan Goolsbee, met with officials at the Canadian consulate in Chicago. In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, a Canadian staffer described the encounter: “Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign.”

As the memo continues, the shoe drops: “[Goolsbee] cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

So maybe Obama isn’t really against NAFTA after all.

There must be no turning back on NAFTA

Financial Times, Dalton Mcguinty, March 13, 2008

For the past few months, we Canadians have had our ears pressed to the border, listening with great interest as our American friends discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As a partner in the agreement, we have a tremendous stake in how this conversation plays out, of course. But we also have a unique perspective on the agreement. For us, Nafta works. That is because Nafta allows trade to flow more naturally and fluidly across our shared border and has helped turn the Great Lakes region into one of the largest concentrations of economic might in the industrialised world.

NAFTA not Ohio’s biggest problem

Dave Manuta, Chillicothe Gazette, March 15, 2008

Of particular interest was the two Democratic aspirants trying to out-demonize the other on the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is unfortunate that neither of these highly capable individuals made the effort to present the facts associated with this free-trade agreement to the electorate. It is this type of pandering and “vote-buying” that has become increasingly tiresome to me.

NAFTA has created jobs

Wilmington News Journal, March 17, 2008

Editor, News Journal:

After the Democrat debate in Cleveland, news stories reported that 60 percent of Texans and 80 percent of Ohioans believe that NAFTA has cost jobs in their respective states. This explains why the candidates pandered to voters by promising to re-negotiate or even leave NAFTA. We would have been better served if the candidates had chosen to educate the voters.

A New Deal for the New Economy

Rahm Emanuel, Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2008

In recent weeks, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) if elected president. I share their concern for Americans who have lost their jobs to global competition. But here’s a bigger idea: Let’s renegotiate the social contract with America’s workers.

Some Ohio business people are big fans of NAFTA

Elizabeth Auster, Cleveland Plain Dealer (no page number available), March 30, 2008

McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin says the Republican candidate has no intention of joining Obama and Clinton in their threat, during a debate in Cleveland, to “opt out” of NAFTA if Mexico and Canada don’t agree to renegotiate its terms. McCain is more focused on signing new trade deals than rewriting old ones, Holtz-Eakin said.

“He’s not going to renegotiate NAFTA or reopen it or do any of the things Obama or Clinton are suggesting,” says Holtz-Eakin. “The senator is committed to making sure that our kids have access to the 95 percent of the world’s customers that are outside our borders.”

Threats to withdraw from NAFTA, Holtz-Eakin warned, could have the effect of alienating two countries that Ohio relies on heavily for exports.

“Ohio exports an enormous amount to Canada and Mexico, and that got lost in the [Democratic] debate,” he said.

Economists say Democrats exaggerate negative impact of free trade

Trade debate askew on campaign trail

Jerry Zremski, Buffalo News, March 28, 2008

As the Democratic presidential candidates engaged in a long-distance debate on economic policy Thursday, economists continued to take aim at one of the central tenets of their argument: that the North American Free Trade Agreement has drained countless jobs from the American economy.

To hear the candidates talk, you would think that NAFTA — the 14-year-old deal that shattered trade barriers among the United States, Canada and Mexico — had also shattered the American manufacturing base.

That viewpoint not only stands in sharp contrast to that of Sen. John McCain, the relentless free-trader who will be the Republican nominee for president, but also runs contrary to the views of liberal economists.

Candidates’ NAFTA criticism justified?

Economists say trade deal beneficial, call job-loss link political pandering

Sylvia A. Smith, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, March 30, 2008

Since NAFTA went into effect, Indiana exports have grown steadily, from $11 billion in 1996 to $22.6 billion in 2006.

Indiana economist Morton Marcus said NAFTA is “used as an excuse for any type of job loss.” He said it’s true that auto-industry workers in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan are feeling the effects of the problems in the industry, “but the industry is not in difficulty because of NAFTA.”

Free trade is good business

Exports mean job opportunities as well as international competition

Charleston Daily Mail, April 1, 2008

One-fifth of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio are tied to exports.