Panel on Obama and Trade

Panel on Obama and Trade

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - December 18, 2008


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I believe in free trade. But I also believe that for far too long, certainly during the course of the Bush administration, with the support of Senator McCain, the attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement.

And NAFTA did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements. And what I said was we should include those and make them enforceable.


HUME: So that was then. This is more recently. In an interview with "The Chicago Tribune" Barack Obama on trade--quote, "I've consistently said on trade issues that I want environmental and labor provisions that are enforceable in those trade agreements.

But I also said that I believe in tree free trade and don't think we can draw a moat around the American economy. I think that be a mistake.

My economic team is going to put together a package on trade and worker issues that will be presented to me, I don't want to anticipate right now what sequences will be on these issues."

He has apparently identified the man who will be his trade secretary, if confirmed, and that will be the former mayor of Dallas Ron Kirk.

And Major Garret was saying earlier today that the trade representative is likely to be a less prominent figure in this administration given the president-elect's attitudes that has been true in the recent past.

Charles, your thoughts on this issue and this president-elect?

KRAUTHAMMER: As we could see in those clips, he clearly is of two minds--on the one hand, on the other hand. And I think nothing will happen on trade in his administration.

It's a very low priority. And the split in his own position you see in the administration.

The high command of his economic team, Larry Summers and the others, are deeply committed to the idea that free trade works overall in the long run, and would go ballistic if, for example, Obama initiated a renegotiation of NAFTA. That's not going to happen.

On the other hand, Obama has a strong constituency in labor which is opposed to any expansion of free trade. So what's going to happen is nothing is going to happen.

Obama will be in favor of it in the abstract. He'll support the great big international agreements like the Doha round, which is one that involves a whole lot of countries, knowing that nothing is going to happen because Brazil or other countries always veto it if you broad agreement on agriculture.

So he'll be committed in principle, nothing will happen. But on the stuff that you can really accomplish, bilateral, which is bilateral-an agreement with Colombia or Korea or others, he will not act because it would anger his labor constituency.

Ron Kirk will be the un-busiest man in the cabinet. He'll read a lot of novels over the next four years.

LIASSON: But Ron Kirk is a free trader. He could have gone a different direction. I think the USTR pick was one of the more revealing ones.

I agree, maybe trade won't be a top priority for him, but the bigger question was is he going to do anything protectionist in the midst of this economic downturn, like renegotiating NAFTA, which he once hinted at during the campaign and then has backed away from since.

I think Obama is someone who resists taking a hard and fast position on any issue unless he absolutely has to. And I think--Ron Kirk is not known as a kind of protectionist, you know, labor union person. He's not.

HUME: Is he a trade person at all?

LIASSON: No, but he's from Texas. He's pro-NAFTA.

The other thing is that I think that the way this cabinet is shaping up, Obama has definitely given the left of his party a certain number of positions, but there have been a lot of signals that he is pragmatic and very centrist.

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FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


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