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Clinton Co-Chair/Fundraiser Downplays Candidate's NAFTA Rhetoric

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In Canada, Clinton Co-Chair/Fundraiser Downplays Candidate's NAFTA Rhetoric

April 18, 2008 5:07 PM

At Toronto's Empire Club of Canada this week, two former US ambassadors to Canada -- one Democrat and one Republican -- debated how concerned Canadians should be that the Democratic candidates are serious about re-negotiating NAFTA.

It was the Democrat, James Blanchard, who told Canadians not to worry, according to Canadian press accounts.

Blanchard, former Governor of Michigan, is a Michigan state co-chair of Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, one of her major "HillRaiser" fundraisers, and served as US Ambassador to Canada during the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has pledged to voters that she will force Canada to re-negotiate the deal or the US will opt out of it.

"I've said that I will renegotiate NAFTA, so obviously we'd have to say to Canada and Mexico that that's exactly what we're going to do," Clinton said during a recent debate. "We will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it.”

But Blanchard seemed to pooh-pooh that bold statement, telling attendees that Democrats are more concerned about China and Mexico than they are Canada.

''Their concern is job loss or unfairness in dealing with countries that have low wage and labor standards and low environmental standards,'' Blanchard said, according to the Canadian Press. ''I have not seen anything that would constitute a threat to trade with Canada."

The story said that Blanchard this week "played down her antipathy toward the free-trade deal, saying she has visited Canada many times and understands the country well."

Conversely, the Republican, former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci -- who served as US Ambassador to Canada for President George W. Bush -- said "there ought to be some concern here in Canada" because both Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have "been making some pretty strong statements" against trade agreements such as NAFTA.

The sincerity of the Democrats' opposition to various trade deals has emerged as an issue in the primary season, as the candidates pursue labor union voters in industrial states such as Pennsylvania, which will hold its contest this Tuesday.

An Obama economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, met with Canadian officials and left the impression he was assuring them not to take Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric too seriously.

Clinton, for her part, has claimed to have always opposed NAFTA even though she help promote the trade deal in 1993.

Her campaign adviser, Mark Penn, met with Colombian officials to help promote the Colombian trade deal that Clinton herself opposes. Her husband also supports the deal and was paid $800,000 by a pro-trade Colombian company in 2005 to deliver speeches in which he promoted it.

When Blanchard resigned as Bill Clinton's ambassador to Canada, the Montreal Gazette reported that he "helped pave the way for the so-called "concessions" on labor and environmental issues that gave Prime Minister Chretien a face-saving excuse for dropping his opposition to NAFTA."

Blanchard eventually became a lobbyist, and has represented Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cisco Systems, and Qualcomm. As a HillRaiser he has committed to raising at least $250,000 for Clinton's campaign.

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Maybe we should focus on changing our lifestyles so we need less natural resources in the first place, rather than just taking Canada's. :)

if renegotiating NAFTA would benefit the American people, shouldn't that be more important to Americans than benefiting Canada?

You know that Canada sits on vast natural resources that we need access to, don't you?

Edited by eekee

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Maybe we should focus on changing our lifestyles so we need less natural resources in the first place, rather than just taking Canada's. :)

if renegotiating NAFTA would benefit the American people, shouldn't that be more important to Americans than benefiting Canada?

You know that Canada sits on vast natural resources that we need access to, don't you?

What's really bad news for Hillary here is that her campaign accused Obama's campaign of the very same infraction prior to the primary in Ohio. Then it was the biggest deal, the worst thing and largest sin a Democratic candidate's campaign could do. She sounded almost shrill when she expressed her disgust with Obama and his campaign to the voters in Ohio. And here we are, her campaign apparently being engaged in exactly the same thing she decried then. This is going to hurt her. And it is going to hurt her at a time when she can least afford it.

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^exactly. if you're against nafta, be against nafta in both the united states and canada, whatever the reaction may be. if elected, they'll have to deal with it in a way that goes beyond empty rhetoric.

Edited by eekee

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as an added thought, it seems silly for the candidates' representatives to go to canada and lie. why tell Americans one thing and Canadians another?

Canada has the upper hand on this. Again, they sit on resources that we cannot do without in the foreseeable future. We're not in a particularly good negotiating position with Canada. That's a very simple fact. Everyone knows.

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