During the primaries and presidential debates some unfortunate souls might have been under the impression that Barack Obama was against free trade. On the campaign trail, he often repeated talking points such as “we can’t keep passing unfair trade deals like NAFTA that put special interests over workers’ interests.” He also hinted at overhauling NAFTA.
Astute observers of his campaign, however, realized this to be posturing. While Obama was on the trail attacking trade, his aids were assuring the rest of the world that Obama was in fact a free trader and the rhetoric was mere “political positioning.” And if that was not enough, his appointment of Rahm Emanuel (Bill Clinton’s “Rahmbo” who rammed NAFTA through Congress) as Chief of Staff should have been a good indication of what policy he favored.
If anyone is still uncertain where Obama stands on trade, this week’s actions should dispel any hope of a saner trade policy. In response to the “Buy American” language in the economic stimulus bill, Obama now sings the necessity of free trade:
“I think it would be a mistake ... at a time when worldwide trade is declining for us to start sending a message that somehow we’re just looking after ourselves and not concerned with world trade….”
And for the icing on the cake, Obama has recently appointed offshoring supporters Sen. Judd Gregg and Diana Farrell to administration posts. Farrell, former director of McKinsey Global Institute, oversaw research arguing that offshore outsourcing brings “substantial benefits” to the U.S. (Both Gregg and Farrell also support massive increases in H1B visas—tying trade policy to immigration.)
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