Unlike Clinton, Sanders Really Does Oppose Free Trade


Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running against free trade, to judge by their stump rhetoric. But it's fairly clear that Sanders, unlike Clinton, is sincere in his opposition. Unlike her, he has a consistent record of opposing free trade, not a long series of zig-zags for political expediency. He would probably oppose free trade for real if elected.

[Ian Fletcher| January, 19 2016 | Huffington Post]

Let's take a look at their records.

We might as well start with the big grand-daddy of them all: NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. This now-notorious agreement, which set America on a road to economic decline we have not yet stepped off of, was denounced at the time by a number of political outsiders, from Bernie Sanders on the left to Pat Buchanan on the right to Ross Perot in the center. They have since been amply vindicated. As a congressman in 1993, Sanders opposed it. Here's a nice video clip of his prescient denunciation.

Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA in public as First Lady, though she now claims she privately opposed it.

Sanders voted No in 1998 on giving the president so-called Fast Track authority to negotiate free-trade agreements without later Congressional amendment. (Fast Track is not only bad economics, it's an unconstitutional evasion of Congress's explicitly stated power to make trade agreements with foreign nations.)

Hillary wasn't in public office at the time, though she certainly didn't denounce her husband's use of Fast Track authority when he had it.

In 1999, Sanders voted No on granting MFN, or "Most Favored Nation" status, a standard form of open trade relations, to China. (This policy change, combined with some other things, marked the moment at which America's deficit with China ceased being merely bad and began to get outrageous.)

Hillary wasn't in public office at the time, though she certainly didn't denounce her husband's support of MFN at this time.

In 2008, Sanders voted No on the Peru Free Trade Agreement. In 2005, he voted No on the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

To be fair, Hillary Clinton did vote against CAFTA in the Senate.

Sanders voted No on the Australia Free Trade Agreement in 2004, and similarly for Singapore and Chile in 2003.

Hillary Clinton voted Yes on all three. Also Morocco and Oman.

Sanders voted No on the South Korea Free Trade Agreement, quantitatively the biggest agreement since NAFTA. And the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. And Panama.

Hillary Clinton flip-flopped on these agreements. After denouncing them on the 2008 primary campaign trail, especially in industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, she supported them as Obama's Secretary of State.

In 2013, Sanders voted No on confirming Michael Froman, Obama's awful corporate-pawn nominee, to be U.S. Trade Representative, America's highest trade diplomat.

Hillary wasn't in public office at the time, and there's no particular public record of what she thinks of Mr. Froman.

Now that's a lot of Nos for Sanders. His trade agenda has since expanded to include some positive legislation on the issue.

In 2000, he voted Yes on withdrawing from the awful World Trade Organization.

Ex-corporate board member Hillary wants to stay in.

In 2003, Sanders co-sponsored legislation to extend trade restrictions that had been placed on Burma in retaliation for the anti-democratic actions of that nations' ruling junta, the so-called Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.

To be fair, Hillary did support this legislation.

Sanders has since signed onto the TRADE (Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment) Act, one of the most ambitious legislative attempts to turn America's trade policy back in a sane direction. This bill requires biennial review of our trade agreements to evaluate their economic, environmental, national security, health, safety, and other effects. It requires a report to a Congressional Trade Agreement Review Committee, which would examine whether the trading partner has a democratic government, respects labor and human rights, protects intellectual property, and enforces environmental laws. It requires the President to submit a plan to renegotiate existing trade agreements to make them comply with these standards.

To be fair, Hillary does claim to support this legislation. However, she didn't exactly further its stated objectives as Secretary of State.

Sanders has also signed onto the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act. This redefines various laws to enable the U.S. to retaliate against nations that manipulate their currencies to gain an advantage in trade. It sets rational standards for determining which nations are manipulating their currency.

To be fair, Hillary does claim to support this legislation. However, she didn't exactly further its stated objectives as Secretary of State.

What's Bernie Sanders saying today about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade controversy du jour? (Hillary claims, with minimal plausibility, to oppose TPP after having helped negotiate it as Obama's Secretary of State.)

I voted against NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR with China. I think they have been a disaster for the American worker. A lot of corporations that shut down here move abroad. Working people understand that after NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China we have lost millions of decent paying jobs. Since 2001, 60,000 factories in America have been shut down. We're in a race to the bottom, where our wages are going down. Is all of that attributable to trade? No. Is a lot of it? Yes. TPP was written by corporate America and the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street. That's what this trade agreement is about. I do not want American workers to competing against people in Vietnam who make 56 cents an hour for a minimum wage.

One of his best extended speeches on the subject of free-trade agreements is here. You can see his full voting record on trade-related issues here.

All in all, he's the real thing on trade. Hillary Clinton is a fair-weather friend at best, a lying opportunist at worst.


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  • commented 2016-01-20 08:46:11 -0500
    There is an old saying that you cannot solve a problem with the very same people who created them. This is why all Washington insiders are having much greater difficulty with trust issues in this election cycle. People are sick and tired of being lied to and want real solutions to real problems. Not just politically correct sound bites and false hope promises. People want manufacturing back in America with greater balanced trade with all countries. This is what will bring back our jobs and economy. We do not have to be controlled by the oligarchs for their self interest selfish greed profits. Today 62 billionaires have as much wealth as 3.5 billion people world wide. Five years ago 388 billionaires were needed to equal that wealth…Oxfram.