Happy Birthday NAFTA!!!!

- December 7, 2015

On The Anniversary Of Her Husband's Signing Of The Trade Deal, A Look At Clinton's Politically Expedient History On Free Trade


  • Today, marks the anniversary of Bill Clinton signing NAFTA, a trade agreement Hillary Clinton has both supported and opposed depending on her audience and timing of her next election.
  • Clinton has a lengthy, 22-year history of shifting positions and flip-flops on trade agreements, reinforcing the notion that principals play no factor in her decisions.
  • Clinton's political posturing on trade "insults the electorate's intelligence" and "conveys the sense" that she just "wants to get elected."

Today Marks The 22-Year Anniversary Of Bill Clinton Signing The North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Into Law. (H.R. 3450, Enacted 12/8/93)


Initially, Clinton Strongly Promoted NAFTA, And Viewed It As An Example Of The Economy That Is "Reaping The Benefits, Not The Burdens Of Globalization"

Politifact Rated Obama's Claim That Clinton Flip-Flopped On NAFTA Once She Started Running For President As "True." "Was running for president the cause of this switch, or was it a gradual change of thinking? It's hard to say; the balance of evidence does not point to a harsh pivot point. But when we balance her previous statements against her more recent statements, we find that she has changed her sentiments when she speaks about NAFTA. We rate Obama's charge True." (Angie Drobnic Holan, "Clinton Has Changed On NAFTA," PolitiFact, 2/25/08)

In Her Book "Living History," Clinton Praised NAFTA, Calling It An Example Of The Economy "Reaping The Benefits, Not The Burdens Of Globalization." "Creating a free trade zone in North America- the largest free trade zone in the world- would expand U.S. exports, create jobs and ensure that our economy was reaping the benefits, not the burdens of globalization." (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History, 2003, p. 182)

During Bill Clinton's Reelection Campaign, Clinton Touted NAFTA To A Texas Audience, "Saying It Would Reap Widespread Benefits In The Region." "Meanwhile, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stumped in the heavily Democratic lower Rio Grande valley. In Brownsville, she touted the president's support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it would reap widespread benefits in the region." ("Clinton Campaigns In Texas," United Press International, 11/1/96)

But Once Clinton Began Running For President She Attacked NAFTA And Free Trade, Claiming It "Hurt A Lot Of American Workers"

Once Running For President, Clinton Called NAFTA "A Mistake" Because It Failed To "Do What Many Had Hoped." CLINTON: "Look, NAFTA did not do what many had hoped, and so we do need to take a look at it and we do need to figure out how we're going to have trade relations that are smart, that give the American worker and the American consumer rights around the world. … NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would, and that's why I call for a trade timeout when I am president." (Sen. Hillary Clinton, CNN Democratic Presidential Debate , Las Vegas, NV, 11/15/07)

Click To Watch

  • Clinton Said NAFTA Should Be Reassessed And "Adjusted." "Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton distanced herself Monday from one of her husband's signature White House achievements, saying NAFTA should be reassessed and 'adjusted' and any new free trade agreements postponed." (Susan Page, "Clinton Seeks To Re-Evaluate NAFTA," USA Today, 10/9/07)

During A Union Campaign Event, Clinton Called For A "Time Out" On Free Trade Agreements, Pledging To Pursue "Smart Trade." "Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton told union activists Monday she would call a 'time out' on trade agreement if she wins the White House to see if the deals are draining jobs from the U.S. 'I am going to do everything I can to move toward smart trade,' said Clinton. She promised to appoint an official to ensure that trade agreement provisions designed to protect labor and environmental standards are enforced by groups such as the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization." (Mike Glover, "Clinton Woos Labor," The Associated Press, 11/12/07)

To Select Audiences, Clinton Continued To Praise The NAFTA, Suggesting She Was "Modulating Her Language To Adapt To The Populist Vapors Of The Democratic Base"

Even Though Clinton Slammed NAFTA In Front Of Big Labor And Most Audiences, Clinton Praised NAFTA In Front Of Free Traders. "Appearing before free-trade supporters, she has praised the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which is loathed by many unions. But speaking to a union audience as a presidential candidate, Clinton said NAFTA hurt workers." (Peter Nicholas, "Clinton's 2008 Lead Is Clear, Though Her Policies Often Aren't," Los Angeles Times, 10/4/07)

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder Wondered If Clinton Was "Modulating Her Language To Adapt To The Populist Vapors Of The Democratic Base" While Campaigning In 2007. " But has Clinton really become a fair trader? Or is she modulating her language to adapt to the populist vapors of the Democratic base? A case can be made for the latter -- and in this case, it's instructive to compare the Republican elite's view of immigration to the Democratic elite's view of trade." (Marc Ambinder, "Clinton's NAFTA Reversal," The Atlantic, 11/16/07)

Eventually, Clinton Came Full Circle On NAFTA, Touting Its Benefits Again Once Secretary Of State

Clinton Said "The North American Market, Of Which Mexico Is Such A Central Part Under NAFTA, Is Going To Remain Strong," Adding "We're Going To Continue To Import And Export To And From Mexico." CLINTON: "But I want to start from the point that here we are in the midst of a global economic crisis, and we need all the growth we can get because that will eventually help every country be able to overcome this recession, since we are so interdependent. I think it's also important to say that I think that the North American market, of which Mexico is such a central part under NAFTA, is going to remain strong. The fact that goods can be manufactured and assembled in Mexico, cutting down on transportation costs, cutting down on the carbon footprint, which will become an even more important consideration in the years ahead, means that we're going to continue to import and export to and from Mexico." (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks At The First Diplomacy Briefing Series Meeting, Washington, DC, 12/11/09)

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  • Clinton Added That She Was "Committed" To "Working With Our Mexican Partners, To Increase The Capacity Of The Mexican Economy So That They Can Export Even A Greater Range Of Goods." CLINTON: "I think we also can do more, working with our Mexican partners, to increase the capacity of the Mexican economy so that they can export even a greater range of goods, because the best answer for Mexico and the best rebuke of the drug traffickers is to increase the economic prosperity of the people of Mexico. And I am committed to doing that and I think that other countries like China can grow. But Mexico will remain a critical partner to us in trade and economic well-being for many, many years to come." (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks At The First Diplomacy Briefing Series Meeting, Washington, DC, 12/11/09)


Clinton "Owns" The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Who As Secretary Of State "Repeatedly Promoted" The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Clinton "Owns" The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Despite Her "Increasing Ambivalence About Its Details." "The deal is one of the most ambitious items left on Barack Obama's White House bucket list. But his former secretary of state owns it too, even though she has expressed increasing ambivalence about its details and could soon disown it outright, as some in her circle have suggested." (Victoria Guida, "Will Hillary Clinton Flip On Trade?" Politico, 10/5/15)

As Secretary Of State, Clinton "Repeatedly Promoted" The Trans-Pacific Partnership At Home And Abroad . "Obama faces a tough vote on the trade deal next year, and Clinton's comments won't help. They will give political cover to wavering congressional Democrats who want to help Obama but are also feeling grassroots pressure from labor unions and other liberal groups. Clinton's comments also represent something of a flip-flop. During her time as Obama's secretary of state, from 2009 to 2013, Clinton repeatedly promoted the trade deal." (Timothy B. Lee, "Hillary Clinton Opposes The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Which She Once Supporter," Vox, 10/7/15)

Clinton In 2012: "The TPP Sets The Gold Standard In Trade Agreements To Open Free, Transparent, Fair Trade, The Kind Of Environment That Has The Rule Of Law And A Level Playing Field." CLINTON: "So it's fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks At Techport Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, 11/15/12)

However, Once A Presidential Candidate, Clinton Came Out Against The Deal Showing She Would Rather "Take The Flip-Flopper Flak" Than Risk Alienating The Liberal Base

Once A Presidential Candidate, Clinton Publicly Opposed The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Saying The Deal Did Not "Meet The High Bar" She Has Set. PBS's JUDY WOODRUFF: "So are you saying that as of today, this is not something you could support?" CLINTON: "What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. And there is one other element I want to make, because I think it's important. Trade agreements don't happen in a vacuum, and in order for us to have a competitive economy in the global marketplace, there are things we need to do here at home that help raise wages. And the Republicans have blocked everything President Obama tried to do on that front. So for the larger issues….and then what I know, and again, I don't have the text, we don't yet have all the details, I don't believe it is going to meet the high bar I have set." (PBS's " News Hour," 10/7/15)

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Despite Clinton's "Encyclopedic View" Of The Trans-Pacific Partnership, She "Pulled A Moonshiner's Turn" To "Skedaddle Away From It." "And who among us had a better vantage from which to assemble an encyclopedic view on the Trans-Pacific Partnership than Clinton? She praised it endlessly while secretary of state, but pulled a moonshiner's turn last week to skedaddle away from it." (Jack Shafer, "The Hole In Hillary's Flip-Flop Excuse," Politico, 10/14/15)

The Washington Post : Clinton Would "Take The Flip-Flopper Flak Rather Than Risk Putting Distance Between Herself And The Party Base." "And yet, Clinton decided to reverse herself on TPP -- no matter what her campaign says, she was a supporter of the deal -- and take the flip-flopper flak rather than risk putting distance between herself and the party base. Worth noting: Vice President Biden, a longtime friend of organized labor, continues to mull a run for the Democratic nomination." (Chris Cillizza, "Hillary Clinton's Opposition To TPP Is A Sign Of Just How Worried She Is About Bernie Sanders," The Washington Post's The Fix , 10/7/15)

Don't Hold Your Breath: Clinton Has Left The Door Open To Flip Back On The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Clinton's Tone On Trade Strikes A Similar Chord With Her Style In 2007, When Clinton Praised NAFTA In Front Of Free Traders And Slammed NAFTA In Front Of Big Labor. "Appearing before free-trade supporters, she has praised the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which is loathed by many unions. But speaking to a union audience as a presidential candidate, Clinton said NAFTA hurt workers." (Peter Nicholas, "Clinton's 2008 Lead Is Clear, Though Her Policies Often Aren't," Los Angeles Times, 10/4/07)

  • When Campaigning In Front Of Pro-Trade Organizations, Clinton Leaves The Door Open To Flip-Flop Back On The Trans-Pacific Partnership. MODERATOR: "So you're evolving on the issue?" CLINTON: "No, I am against it now, but we'll see whether there is any kind of significant changes. I mean look if the congress tomorrow adopted my entire you know working wage agenda I'd be pretty excited about that, but I think that will have to wait til I'm actually there as President." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks At The Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce, 10/15/15)


Clinton Has Turned Against The South Korean Free Trade Agreement For The Second Time As A Presidential Candidate, But Called It A "Model Agreement" As Secretary Of State

In The Same Interview Where She Came Out Against The Trans-Pacific Partnership Clinton Added To Her Hypocrisy On Free Trade By Publicly Opposing The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement That She Endorsed And Lobbied Congress To Pass During Her Time As Secretary Of State. CLINTON: "I think that there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for me, it really comes down to those three points that I made, and the fact that we've learned a lot about trade agreements in the past years. Sometimes they look great on paper. I know when President Obama came into office, he inherited a trade agreement with South Korea. I, along with other members of the Cabinet, pushed hard to get a better agreement. We think we made improvements. Now looking back on it, it doesn't have the results we thought it would have in terms of access to the market, more exports, et cetera." (PBS's "News Hour," 10/7/15)

Clinton Called The Trade Agreement With South Korea "A Model Agreement" That Signaled The United States And South Korea Were Partners For The Long Term. CLINTON: "We are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. President Obama is pursuing Congressional approval of KORUS, together with necessary Trade Adjustment Assistance, as soon as possible. We consider KORUS a model agreement. And the benefits of KORUS extend far beyond the economic bottom line. It represents a powerful strategic bet by signaling that America and South Korea are partners for the long term-economically, diplomatically, and people to people." (Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton's Speech At The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce In Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, 7/25/11)

  • Clinton Said Convincing Congress To Ratify The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Was One Of Her "Top Priorities" While Serving As Secretary Of State. CLINTON: "I am pleased to report that KORUS is currently ready for review by the United States Congress. This is a high, if not a top -- I think it is probably one of my top priorities for the next months. We are determined to get it done, and I believe we will. We will need your help. It will be important to keep making the case to both of our respective legislative bodies." (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks At The American Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, Seoul, South Korea, 4/17/11)

During Her Time In The Senate, Clinton Was "Spearheading The Opposition" To The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, The "Biggest Free Trade Agreement" Since NAFTA. "Spearheading the opposition is Hillary Clinton, the top Democratic presidential contender, who chose to speak against the deal last weekend in Michigan, the birthplace of the US automobile industry… The US-South Korea deal, the biggest free trade agreement since the 1993 NAFTA, has to be signed by the two sides before President George W. Bush's powers to fast-track trade deals expire on June 30, and then sent to Congress for approval." (P. Parameswaran, "US Congress Questions Korean Trade Deal," Agence France Presse, 6/14/07)

  • At An AFL-CIO Town Hall Meeting, Clinton "Specifically Called For The Rejection Of The Korea-US (KORUS) Trade Deal. "She said that she is committed to reinvesting in US manufacturing and called for the rejection of trade deals that have contributed to the loss of millions of jobs. She specifically called for the rejection of the Korea-US (KORUS) trade deal. 'If we don't have a strong manufacturing base in our economy, it won't be long until we don't have a strong economy,' said Clinton." ( Press Release, "Michigan Working Families Meet With Senator Clinton As Part Of AFL-CIO Presidential Candidate Town Hall Series," AFL-CIO, 6/9/07)

Clinton Praised The Central American Free Trade Agreement As A Way To "Promote Growth And Create Jobs" But Called It A "Sad Day" When It Passed The Senate

Clinton, On The Day CAFTA First Passed The Senate In 2005: "This Is A Sad Day For Supporters Of Free And Fair Rules-Based Trade." CLINTON: "This is a sad day for supporters of free and fair rules-based trade. Our relationship with our Central American neighbors is a critical one. The right CAFTA deal would strengthen ties between the U.S. and these nations. I urge the Administration to reopen the CAFTA negotiations and re-establish the broad, bipartisan coalition for trade."(Hillary Clinton, Congressional Record, 6/30/05, S. 7731)

In March 2010, Clinton Said "We've Worked To Promote Growth And Create Jobs Through … Multilateral Pacts Like NAFTA And CAFTA-DR." CLINTON: "In our region, prosperity has widened in recent decades. We've worked to promote growth and create jobs through sound fiscal policy, bilateral trade agreements, multilateral pacts like NAFTA and CAFTA-DR, and institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank." (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks At Pathways To Prosperity Ministerial, San Jose, Costa Rica, 3/4/10)


The New York Times' David Brooks: Clinton Is "Campaigning On A Series Of Positions That She Transparently Does Not Believe In" And "Will, It Appears, Transparently Flip Back" After She Has The "Nomination In Hand And White House Won." "All presidential candidates face a core problem. To win their party's nomination in an age of growing polarization they have to adopt base-pleasing, pseudo-extreme policy positions. But to win a general election and actually govern they have to adopt semi-centrist majority positions. How can one person do both? Nobody had figured this out until, brilliantly, Hillary Clinton. She is campaigning on a series of positions that she transparently does not believe in. She'll say what she needs to say now to become Bernie Sanders in a pantsuit (wait, Bernie Sanders already wears a pantsuit!). Then, nomination in hand and White House won, she will, it appears, transparently flip back and embrace whatever other positions she doesn't believe in that will help her succeed in her new role." (David Brooks, Op-Ed, "Hillary Clinton's Opportunist Solution!"The New York Times, 10/9/15)

The Washington Post's David Ignatius: Clinton's Approach On Trade "Highlights Her Vulnerability As A Candidate" And "Conveys The Sense" That She Just "Wants To Get Elected." "But it's Clinton rope-a-dope approach to the TPP that deserves most attention, because it highlights her vulnerability as a candidate. Her caution conveys the sense that she's running because she wants to get elected, rather than as the exponent of a set of beliefs." (David Ignatius, "Time For Candidate Clinton To Step Up On Trade," The Washington Post , 5/14/15)

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: In A "Year When Voters Want Authenticity In A Candidate" Clinton "Seems Determined To Test That Proposition." "This is supposed to be the year when voters want authenticity in a candidate, but Hillary Clinton seems determined to test that proposition. On Wednesday President Obama's former Secretary of State came out against her former boss's Pacific trade agreement only two days after it was completed." (Editorial Board, "Hillary Trades Places With Clinton," The Wall Street Journal, 10/7/15)

Vox's Ezra Klein: Clinton's Flip-Flops On Trade Is Just Another Example Where Clinton Was "Swayed By Polls Or Interest Groups." "But Clinton's reputation as a policymaker is iffier - her critics can rattle off a long list of important decisions, ranging from the Iraq War to the bankruptcy bill, where they think she was swayed by polls or interest groups. Clinton, of course, isn't just a policymaker - she's a politician, and particularly when it comes to reading polls and managing interest groups, she's a good one." (Ezra Klein, "Why Clinton's TPP Opposition Unnerves Me," Vox, 10/8/15)

The Washington Post : "Clinton's Dash For The Tall Grass" On Trade Is "Transparently Inconsistent" And "Insults The Electorate's Intelligence." " Ms. Clinton's dash for the tall grass is transparently inconsistent with the position she embraced as Mr. Obama's secretary of state. "Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements - and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific," she wrote in an October 2011 cover story for Foreign Policy magazine. Indeed, given this well-known record, her avoidance now rather insults the electorate's intelligence." (Editorial, "Hillary Clinton, MIA On Trade, " The Washington Post ," 5/12/15)

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