Obama on Free Trade: Speeches and Public Statements
NB: Citizens' Trade Campaign has a comprehensive library of Obama's trade commentary both pre and post-election, available here.
Obama's Speech in Janesville, Wisconsin
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave this speech at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin on February 13, 2008.
"[...] When I’m President, we’ll reform our bankruptcy laws so that we give Americans who find themselves in debt a second chance. I’ll close the loophole that allows investors with multiple homes to renegotiate their mortgage in bankruptcy court, but not victims of predatory lending. We’ll make sure that if you can demonstrate that you went bankrupt because of medical expenses, then you can relieve that debt and get back on your feet. And I’ll make sure that CEOs can’t dump your pension with one hand while they collect a bonus with the other. That’s an outrage, and it’s time we had a President who knows it’s an outrage.
Those are the steps we can take to ease the cost crisis facing working families. But we still need to make sure that families are working. We need to maintain our competitive edge in a global by ensuring that plants like this one stay open for another hundred years, and shuttered factories re-open as new industries that promise new jobs. And we need to put more Americans to work doing jobs that need to be done right here in America.
For years, we have stood by while our national infrastructure has crumbled and decayed. In 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a D, citing problems with our airports, dams, schools, highways, and waterways. One out of three urban bridges were classified as structurally deficient, and we all saw the tragic results of what that could mean in Minnesota last year. Right here in Wisconsin, we know that $500 million of freight will come through this state by 2020, and if we do not have the infrastructure to handle it, we will not get the business.
For our economy, our safety, and our workers, we have to rebuild America. I’m proposing a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years. This investment will multiply into almost half a trillion dollars of additional infrastructure spending and generate nearly two million new jobs – many of them in the construction industry that’s been hard hit by this housing crisis. The repairs will be determined not by politics, but by what will maximize our safety and homeland security; what will keep our environment clean and our economy strong. And we’ll fund this bank by ending this war in Iraq. It’s time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money on putting America back together instead.
It’s also time to look to the future and figure out how to make trade work for American workers. I won’t stand here and tell you that we can – or should – stop free trade. We can’t stop every job from going overseas. But I also won’t stand here and accept an America where we do nothing to help American workers who have lost jobs and opportunities because of these trade agreements. And that’s a position of mine that doesn’t change based on who I’m talking to or the election I’m running in.
You know, in the years after her husband signed NAFTA, Senator Clinton would go around talking about how great it was and how many benefits it would bring. Now that she’s running for President, she says we need a time-out on trade. No one knows when this time-out will end. Maybe after the election.
I don’t know about a time-out, but I do know this – when I am President, I will not sign another trade agreement unless it has protections for our environment and protections for American workers. And I’ll pass the Patriot Employer Act that I’ve been fighting for ever since I ran for the Senate – we will end the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas, and we will give those breaks to companies who create good jobs with decent wages right here in America.
I believe that we can create millions of those jobs around a clean, renewable energy future. A few hours northeast of here is the city of Manitowoc. For over a century, it was the home of Mirro manufacturing – a company that provided thousands of jobs and plenty of business. In 2003, Mirro closed its doors for good after losing thousands of jobs to Mexico.
But in the last few years, something extraordinary has happened. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Doyle and Mayor Kevin Crawford, Manitowoc has re-trained its workers and attracted new businesses and new jobs. Orion Energy Systems works with companies to reduce their electricity use and carbon emissions. And Tower Tech is now making wind turbines that are being sold all over the world. Hundreds of people have found new work, and unemployment has been cut in half.
This can be America’s future. I know that General Motors received some bad news yesterday, and I know how hard your Governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant. But I also know how much progress you’ve made – how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out. And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years. The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive. I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your President.
My energy plan will invest $150 billion over ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. We’ll also provide funding to help manufacturers convert to green technology and help workers learn the skills they need for these jobs.
We know that all of this must be done in a responsible way, without adding to the already obscene debt that has grown by four trillion dollars under George Bush. We know that we cannot build our future on a credit card issued by the bank of China. And that is why I’ve paid for every element of this economic agenda – by ending a war that’s costing us billions, closing tax loopholes for corporations, putting a price on carbon pollution, and ending George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.
In the end, this economic agenda won’t just require new money. It will require a new spirit of cooperation and innovation on behalf of the American people. We will have to learn more, and study more, and work harder. We’ll be called upon to take part in shared sacrifice and shared prosperity. And we’ll have to remind ourselves that we rise and fall as one nation; that a country in which only a few prosper is antithetical to our ideals and our democracy; and that those of us who have benefited greatly from the blessings of this country have a solemn obligation to open the doors of opportunity, not just for our children, but to all of America’s children.
That is the spirit that’s thrived in Janesville from the moment that first tractor came off the assembly line so many years ago. It’s the spirit that led my grandmother to her own assembly line during World War II, and my grandfather to march in Patton’s Army. When that war ended, they were given the chance to go to college on the GI Bill, to buy a house from the Federal Housing Authority, and to give my mother the chance to go to the best schools and dream as big as the Kansas sky. Even though she was a single mom who didn’t have much, it’s the same chance she gave me, and why I’m standing here today.
It’s a promise that’s been passed down through the ages; one that each generation of Americans is called to keep – that we can raise our children in a land of boundless opportunity, broad prosperity, and unyielding possibility. That is the promise we must keep in our time, and I look forward to working and fighting to make it real as President of the United States. Thank you."
Obama Statement on Trade Deficit Increase
June 10, 2008
Chicago, IL - Senator Obama released the following statement in response to the news of the trade deficit increase.
"Today we learned that the trade deficit jumped to its highest level in 13 months. This is not an accident. This is yet another sign of the failed economic policies of the Bush administration that John McCain seeks to extend – policies that reflect unprecedented fiscal irresponsibility and borrowing from abroad. Rather than get America's fiscal house in order, Senator McCain is proposing $300 billion more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn't explained how he'd pay for them. Just this week, John McCain reaffirmed his commitment to special interest-driven economic policies that will widen the trade deficit, but won't help American automakers secure fair treatment in South Korea, and won't ensure that China stops devaluing its currency and tilting the playing field against American workers. As President, Barack Obama will stand up for fiscal responsibility by restoring fairness to our economy, investing in a renewable energy future, and adopting a trade policy that serves the interests not just of multinational corporations but of America's hardworking families."
Why I oppose CAFTA
Thursday, June 30, 2005
The proposed accord does less to protect U.S. labor than previous trade agreements, and does little to address environmental standards in the Central American countries.
by Barack Obama
This week Congress will debate the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
I wish I could vote in favor of CAFTA. In the end, I believe that expanding trade and breaking down barriers between countries is good for our economy and for our security, for American consumers and American workers. CAFTA would benefit farmers here in Illinois as well as agricultural and manufacturing interests across the country.
We also shouldn't kid ourselves into believing that voting against trade agreements will stop globalization--especially ones like CAFTA, where the countries involved have combined economies one-sixth the size of Illinois'.
Globalization is not someone's political agenda. It is a technological revolution that is fundamentally changing the world's economy, producing winners and losers along the way. The question is not whether we can stop it, but how we respond to it. It's not whether we should protect our workers from competition, but what we can do to fully enable them to compete against workers all over the world.
So far, America has not effectively answered these questions and American workers are suffering as a result. I meet these workers all across Illinois, workers whose jobs moved to Mexico or China and are now competing with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour. In town meetings and union halls, I've tried to tell these workers the truth--that these jobs aren't coming back, that globalization is here to stay and that they will have to train more and learn more to get the new jobs of tomorrow.
But when they wonder how they will get this training and this education, when they ask what they will do about their health-care bills and their lower wages and the general sense of financial insecurity that seems to grow with each passing day, I cannot look them in the eyes and tell them that their government is doing a single thing about these problems.
That is why I won't vote for CAFTA.
There are real problems in the agreement itself. It does less to protect labor than previous trade agreements, and does little to address enforcement of basic environmental standards in the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. Moreover, there has been talk that, in order to get votes from legislators from sugar-producing states, the Bush administration may be preserving indefensible sugar subsidies that benefit a handful of wealthy growers and cripple Illinois candy manufacturers.
But the larger problem is what's missing from our prevailing policy on trade and globalization--namely, meaningful assistance for those who are not reaping its benefits and a plan to equip American workers with the skills and support they need to succeed in a 21st Century economy.
So far, almost all of our energy and almost all of these trade agreements are about making life easier for the winners of globalization, while we do nothing as life gets harder for American workers. In 2004, nearly 150,000 workers were certified as having lost their jobs due to trade and were thus eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance--and this number doesn't even count service workers like janitors and cafeteria employees.
But this is about more than displaced workers. Our failure to respond to globalization is causing a race to the bottom that means lower wages and stingier health and retiree benefits for all Americans. It's causing a squeeze on middle-class families who are working harder but making even less and struggling to stay afloat in this new economy. As one Downstate worker told me during a recent visit, "It doesn't do me much good if I'm saving a dollar on a T-shirt at Wal-Mart, but don't have a job."
And so now we must choose. We must decide whether we will sit idly by and do nothing while American workers continue to lose out in this new world, or if we will act to build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead and reach their dreams.
If we are to promote free and fair trade--and we should--then we must make a national commitment to prepare every child in America with the education they need to compete in the new economy; to provide retraining and wage insurance so even if you lose your job you can train for another; to make sure worker retraining helps people without getting them caught in bureaucracy; that it helps service workers as well as manufacturing workers and encourages people to re-enter the workforce as soon as possible.
We also need to figure out a way to tell workers that no matter where you work or how many times you switch jobs, you can take your health care and pension with you always, so you have the flexibility to move to a better job or start a new business.
We cannot expect to insulate ourselves from all the dislocations brought about by free trade, and most of the workers I meet don't expect Washington to do so. But we need a national commitment.
In America, we have always furthered the idea that everybody has a stake in this country and that everyone deserves a shot at opportunity.
The imbalance in this administration's policies, as reflected in the CAFTA debate, fails to provide American workers with their shot at opportunity. It's time we gave them that shot.
Obama's remarks to AFL-CIO members
Philadelphia, PA | April 02, 2008
“[...] Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that we can't stop globalization in its tracks and that opening new markets to our goods can help strengthen our economy. But what I refuse to accept is that we have to sign trade deals like the South Korea Agreement that are bad for American workers. What I oppose - and what I have always opposed - are trade deals that put the interests of multinational corporations ahead of the interests of Americans workers - like NAFTA, and CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China.
And I'll also oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement if President Bush insists on sending it to Congress because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements. So you can trust me when I say that whatever trade deals we negotiate when I'm President will be good for American workers, and that they'll have strong labor and environmental protections that we'll enforce.
These are the battles we should be fighting. This is the future we should be building. But it's going to be hard to do all this so long as we're spending $10 billion a month fighting a war in Iraq that should have never been authorized and never been waged. I opposed this war from the start. I've opposed it each year it's been going on. And that's why I'm the one candidate who will offer a real choice in November because I can stand up to John McCain with credibility and say no to a 100-year occupation of Iraq, and no to a third Bush term. It's time to bring out troops home.
It's time to end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for good jobs and universal health care. It's time to end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for a world-class education and Social Security. It's time to end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for opportunity and prosperity here at home. So make no mistake - the American people have a choice in this election. We can keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players, and somehow expect a different result. Or we can choose a different future. Just imagine it.
Imagine a President whose life's story is like so many of your own, who knows what it's like to go to college on student loans, and see his mother get sick and worry that maybe she can't pay the medical bills. Imagine a Washington where the only lobby that has real influence is the people's lobby. A Washington where you can trust that your voice will be heard before any major piece of labor legislation is signed into law. Imagine an America that lives up to the idea that those mechanics proposed nearly two hundred years ago, where we finally have a system that works for Main Street and not just Wall Street.
That's the change we seek. That's the vision the AFL-CIO has always fought for. And that's the future that's within our grasp. So I'm asking you to march with me, and work with me, and fight with me. And if you do, then I truly believe we won't just win this primary, and we won't just defeat John McCain in November - we'll build an America where labor is on the rise, where hope is on the rise, and where the American dream is within reach for every family in this country. Thank you.”
Obama says only outsider can bring changes that rivals have failed to enact
The Associated Press | October 09, 2007
By PHILIP ELLIOTT
LONDONDERRY, N.H. (AP) -- Democrat Barack Obama says voters should elect him president, "not because I have some perfect solution" to pressing problems, but because he's the candidate who can get things done.
Campaigning as an outsider, Obama, who was elected to the Senate three years ago, acknowledged Tuesday that some of his proposals aren't that different from those of rival candidates. The difference is that the others have had years to turn plans into action. "I know change makes for good campaign rhetoric, but when these same people had the chance to make change happen, they didn't lead," Obama said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
He also said he would join his colleagues and support a pending trade deal with Peru that already has passed key House and Senate committees. "The Peruvian agreement contains the very labor agreements that labor and our allies have been asking for. ... What I'm saying, is that the same provisions that we fought for - and that the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations had been asking for and that weren't contained in NAFTA - they are in this agreement," Obama said.
Obama said he supports the foreign trade deal, which is especially important to labor and U.S. manufacturers. He said active trading is a key way to keep the United States competitive. "We're not going to draw a moat around the United States' economy. If we do that, then China is still trading, India is still going to be trading," said Obama, who voted against the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement and opposes the current pending trade deal with South Korea.
"I think that NAFTA and CAFTA did not reflect the interests of American workers but reflected the interests of the stock owners on Wall Street, because they did not contain the sorts of labor provisions and environmental provisions that should have been embedded and should have been enforceable in those agreements. ... You got the stock market sky-high. Corporate profits going up, but those workers who get laid off as a consequence of displacement, there's some sort of weak retraining program that trains people for jobs that don't exist in communities all across the country."
A day earlier, Obama outlined an environmental plan that includes some goals included in other candidates' plans, and he acknowledged on Tuesday his health care plan is similar to top rivals' thoughts on the subject. "I would not be running for president if I did not believe this time could be different, not because I have some perfect solution that every other expert and every other candidate has somehow missed, but because I believe the American people are ready for a president who can unite us around a common purpose," Obama said Tuesday.
Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, is in a tight race against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards in polls and fundraising. He did not name them but said current leaders in Washington have failed - a charge that earned him applause among the mostly Democratic-leaning crowd.
"That's why America isn't leading when taking on the threat of climate change. Washington's failure is the failure of a president who has spent most of his time in office denying the very existence of global warming, suggesting that it might be a hoax," Obama said.
On one specific energy matter that is important to many in New Hampshire, he would not pledge to stop all new nuclear power plants. "When you're a politician, you're always tempted to get some applause, but on this one I have to be more qualified," Obama said. "We shouldn't simply remove nuclear power from the equation," Obama said. "But there has to be a high standard and a high threshold. ... I'm not going to automatically rule it out as a reasonable option."
Obama said because he doesn't accept federal lobbyist dollars and has fought an insider's mentality, he will be able to affect change in how policy is established. "If everything is out front, you know who is doing (lobbyists') bidding and who is doing the bidding of the American people," Obama said at an evening event at Plymouth State University. "And that's the kind of politics we need to set up." He also made the case for his candidacy over his rivals.
"We've got a great slate of Democratic candidates. They're all very good and I respect all of them," Obama said. "But here's what I think I can do that no other candidate can do: I think I can bring people together to get things done. Partly that is generational. I am tired of fighting the battles of the '60s or the '90s."
Obama Urges Bush to Withhold Korean Trade Pact, Not Force Vote
Friday, May 23, 2008 | Bloomberg By Mark Drajem
Bloomberg -- Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, told President George W. Bush it would be ``misguided'' to press Congress to vote on a new trade agreement with South Korea. Obama, who has made criticism of free-trade pacts a staple of his campaign, called the accord between the two nations ``badly flawed.''
``In the interests of cultivating bipartisan cooperation on trade policy, I urge you not to send this agreement forward to the Congress,'' Obama wrote in a letter to Bush released today. Instead of pushing the agreement, the U.S. trade office should use existing laws to challenge ``barriers to U.S. exports,'' Obama said.
The U.S.-South Korea trade accord, the biggest for the U.S. since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, was signed last June. The Bush administration still hasn't submitted it to Congress. Lawmakers such as Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, say they won't consider it until South Korea drops all its restrictions on U.S. beef, which the Asian nation has said it will do.
``Beef was the last impediment'' before the accord could be sent to Congress for a vote, Undersecretary of Commerce Christopher Padilla said yesterday. Bush said earlier today that his first priority is getting a similar pact with Colombia approved. After Bush tried last month to force a vote on that deal, the U.S. House of Representatives took the unprecedented step of stripping out a 90-day deadline to hold the vote, putting off consideration of the accord indefinitely.
Since then, analysts such as Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, have said that the House action undermined the ability of future American leaders to negotiate trade pacts. The move was the ``gravest threat to the global trading system in decades,'' Bergsten wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. is South Korea's second-largest export market behind China, with shipments totaling $45.8 billion in 2007. Imports from the U.S. last year reached $37.2 billion. The trade agreement would eliminate or reduce tariffs on a wide range of goods including automobiles, vegetables and electronics.
Critics such as Ford Motor Co. and the autoworkers union say that Korea keeps unfair regulatory barriers to U.S. auto exports and contend that the accord won't address those concerns. Obama backed those complaints today.
The deal ``would give Korean exports essentially unfettered access to the U.S. market and would eliminate our best opportunity for obtaining genuinely reciprocal market access in one of the world's largest economies,'' Obama wrote.