Can Hillary Clinton step out of Bill’s NAFTA shadow?


Washington (CNN)Two decades later, Hillary Clinton is still haunted by the ghosts of NAFTA.

Labor unions and liberal activists are preparing to highlight free trade an issue central to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s political brand in the early 1990s if she opts to run for president in 2016.
    Driving their anger: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive new pact that that would usurp the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement’s place as the biggest-ever free trade agreement. President Barack Obama’s administration has been negotiating the Chile-to-Japan deal for years, and it’s increasingly drawing scrutiny from the Democratic base as the talks near completion.
    The new deal has reminded labor halls across the country of the old one and that it was their biggest problem with the Clintons.
    Compounding the problem is that free trade, particularly NAFTA, is an issue that Clinton has vacillated on since her husband’s administration.
    As first lady, Clinton backed NAFTA and spoke highly of it at stops for the administration. But once she was elected to the Senate and later ran for president, her support of free trade — and her husband’s landmark agreement — began to wane. On the campaign trail, Clinton acknowledged that NAFTA has “hurt a lot of American workers” and advocated for broad reform of trade policy. President Barack Obama’s campaign even used the flip-flop against Clinton during the 2008 primary.
    But after Clinton lost the nomination and agreed to serve as the President’s Secretary of State, she began to warm up to free trade, and particularly the TPP.


    The Trans-Pacific Partnership, like NAFTA, includes Canada and Mexico. But the deal’s real pearl is Japan — a potentially huge market for U.S. food, natural gas and more. It’s a wealthy economy that American businesses haven’t been able to crack.
    But Japan is bogged down by its own political challenges. The country’s agricultural interests are especially influential in its legislature, and they’ve resisted opening their ports to American rice, beef, pork and wheat — which, in turn, has infuriated U.S. farmers. For more than a year, it’s been a huge sticking point that has delayed progress on the deal.
    That’s why the Trans-Pacific Partnership debate isn’t going away.
    Trade agreements take years to come together. Even after the presidents and prime ministers announce they’ve struck a deal, the wording must be scrubbed and translated into each country’s language — a process that takes months. Then legislatures, where anger about their lack of a role in the negotiations has often simmered for years, might insist on changes. Different countries’ elections and changing political tides can complicate things even more.
    The best-case scenario for Obama is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be approved by Congress at the very end of his presidency.
    And that’s if a deal can be struck soon — which is unlikely. Negotiators already blew their goal of reaching an agreement in 2012. Then they missed their own deadline in 2013. And again in 2014.
    Much more likely is that the next president will have decisions to make about whether and how to finalize the negotiations — or, at least, whether to sign the deal.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/14/politics/hillary-clinton-trade/index.html

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