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Clinton's Statement on the Trade Agenda

Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Published February 19, 2008

Hillary Clinton’s Trade Agenda

Making Trade Work for Working Families

With the middle class squeezed and the economy slipping into recession, American families need a President who will fight for their economic interests from day one. Americans need a President who will fight for fair, pro-American trade policies that will not trap them in a race to the bottom. Low wages in other countries are costing America jobs and putting pressure on wages here at home. With approximately one quarter of our gross domestic product linked to international trade, we need trade policies that better manage globalization. As President, Hillary will make trade work for working families.

Fixing NAFTA. NAFTA was negotiated more than 14 years ago, and Hillary believes it has not lived up to its promises. Hillary is the only candidate with a detailed plan to fix NAFTA—one that addresses its shortcomings and brings the agreement up to date. As President, she will work with our trade partners to:

1) Dramatically strengthen NAFTA’s labor and environmental provisions. Strengthening these provisions will elevate labor and environmental standards around the world, protecting our workers from a race to the bottom. It will also make it harder for companies to move jobs to countries where workers have fewer protections than in America. NAFTA’s labor and environmental provisions are now in a side agreement rather than in the core text. The requirements are weaker than those Hillary will demand in future trade agreements, and weaker than those the Democratic leadership recently crafted. As President, Hillary will bring NAFTA’s labor and environmental protections up to date. She will make the standards far tougher and absolutely binding, and she will place them in the core agreement so that we are working to raise living standards around the world.

2) Change NAFTA’s investment provisions that grant special rights to foreign companies. Under NAFTA, foreign companies can challenge American laws before special tribunals and outside of our court system. The laws that foreign companies can challenge include regulations intended to protect workers and protect the environment. Hillary believes that trade agreements must elevate standards of living around the world, not empower corporations to hold them down.

3) Strengthen NAFTA’s enforcement mechanisms. Stronger enforcement mechanisms will ensure strict compliance with the agreement and it will help remove trade barriers our companies may still encounter. Hillary will apply the stronger enforcement mechanisms not only to NAFTA’s commercial provisions, but to its labor and environmental provisions as well.

4) Review NAFTA regularly. Regular reviews will enable us to measure whether our workers and communities are reaping benefits, will ensure that labor and environmental standards are improving, and will allow us to assess whether the agreement requires additional changes going forward.

Strong Labor and Environmental Provisions in All Trade Agreements. Hillary will require that all future trade agreements contain strong and enforceable labor and environmental provisions in the core of the agreement. These provisions will elevate labor and environmental standards around the world, protecting our workers from a race to the bottom. These provisions will also make it harder for companies to ship jobs to countries where workers have less protection than they do in America. Hillary opposed CAFTA in part because the labor and environmental provisions were inadequate.

A Trade “Timeout.” As President, Hillary will take a “timeout” from new trade agreements until her administration has formulated a comprehensive trade policy for the 21st Century—one that is genuinely pro-worker, pro-American, and vigorously enforced. Reviewing existing trade deals, strengthening enforcement, and formulating a smart trade policy will be her priories.

Regular Review of Trade Agreements. As President, Hillary will review all of our trade agreements to determine their economic effects and ensure they are working for America. As Senator, she has introduced the Trade Agreement Assessment Act to review all agreements in their 2nd year, 5th year, and every 5 years after that. The reviews will assess whether the agreements are benefiting our workers and economy and whether our trade partners are improving their labor and environmental standards.

A New Trade “Prosecutor.” As President, Hillary will vigorously enforce our trade agreements. To that end, she will appoint a trade enforcement officer and double the enforcement staff at USTR. The current staff is too small to monitor and enforce the increasingly complex trade agreements. Vigorous enforcement of our trade agreements has not been a priority for President Bush—but it will be for Hillary.

Cracking Down on China’s Currency Manipulation. Foreign countries manipulate their currencies to make American goods look expensive on the world market and to make their own goods look inexpensive. This practice hurts American workers and it must end. Hillary is a co-sponsor of legislation that will require the administration to take definitive steps to stop China and other countries from harming American interests by undervaluing their currencies. Currency manipulation by our trading partners is also contributing to our trade deficit. Hillary has co-sponsored the Foreign Debt Ceiling Act, legislation that will require the administration to draw up an action plan to address our large trade imbalance.

Strengthening Support for Workers Adversely Affected by Trade. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Program provides job training, income support, a health care tax credit, and job placement assistance. Hillary will modernize the program to ensure that it is truly helping workers hurt by global trade. First, Hillary will broaden TAA to cover all workers whose plants have moved abroad. Workers are currently ineligible for TAA if their plants relocated to countries with which we have not signed free trade or trade preferences agreements. This outdated rule means that when plants shift from America to low-wage countries like India and China, laid-off workers are ineligible for TAA. Second, she will extend TAA benefits to service workers. Today, workers who produce a service rather than a product are ineligible for TAA, and therefore call-center operators and other workers are left without assistance. Third, Hillary will double funding for TAA’s job training program to $440 million. And fourth, she will overhaul the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) to ensure that it is actually making health care affordable for laid-off workers. She will increase the tax credit to 90% of premiums from the current 65%. And Hillary will fight for a universal health care plan that provides all Americans with quality, affordable health care.

Opposing Trade Agreements That Harm American Workers. President Bush hastily signed the Korea free trade agreement before his fast track authority expired, and the consequence was a deal that will cost America jobs. Korea has a long history of blocking access to its car market, and yet the agreement has weak provisions for prying that market open. At the same time, the agreement further opens our own car market to Korean vehicles. Hillary strongly opposed the Korea free trade agreement for these reasons. She also strongly opposed fast track authority for President Bush because he has misused the authority and failed to enforce our agreements. Hillary opposes the Bush administration’s trade agreement with Colombia because of the country’s history of violence against union members. She opposes the trade agreement with Panama because the head of the country’s National Assembly is a fugitive from justice in America. And Hillary strongly believes that the President should not rush to sign other trade agreements on his way out of office.

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