Yesterday was Barack Obama day here on this blog. Today is Hillary Clinton day.
In her recent Economic Blueprint for the 21st Century, Hillary Clinton sets out a "Pro-America Trade Agenda." (As an aside, do politicians in other countries use similar phrases? For example, do Koreans running for President set out a "Pro-Korea Trade Agenda"? Or is this just an American phenomenon?) She makes a number of points, as follows.
Point number 1:
A New Trade Prosecutor. Hillary will appoint a trade enforcement officer within the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and double the size of USTR’s enforcement unit. The Bush Administration has been extremely lax about enforcing our trade agreements, and workers are suffering as a consequence. There were more trade enforcement actions in one year of the Clinton Administration than in six years of the Bush Administration. Hillary will appoint a trade enforcement officer within USTR who will be responsible for ensuring that our trade agreements are vigorously enforced. She will also double the size of the enforcement unit. The current staff is too small to monitor and enforce the increasingly complex agreements.
I can't find any fault with giving more money to USTR. From what I've seen, they all work very hard. More staff couldn't hurt.
I wonder about the following claim, though: "The Bush Administration has been extremely lax about enforcing our trade agreements, and workers are suffering as a consequence. There were more trade enforcement actions in one year of the Clinton Administration than in six years of the Bush Administration." It is true that many more WTO complaints were brought during the Clinton years than the Bush years. But it's not just the U.S. whose complaints have gone down over the period. Almost everyone has brought fewer complaints. Take a look at the EC:
So I'm not quite sure what to make of the decrease in U.S. complaints. Perhaps everyone is just too busy negotiating FTAs to focus on enforcement.
Modernizing Trade Adjustment Assistance. Hillary will overhaul the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program to ensure that workers who have lost jobs because of global competition get the support they need. TAA 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, she will extend TAA benefits to service workers. Today, workers who produce a service rather than a product are ineligible for TAA, leaving everyone from call-center operators to radiologists, without assistance. Second, 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. 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 percent of premiums from the current 65 percent. And she will allow laid-off workers without access to COBRA or a qualified state plan to use the HCTC to buy into the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP).
This all seems like standard stuff, in the sense that most Democrats would support it and most Republicans would object to it.
Review trade agreements every five years. As President, Hillary will review trade agreements every five years to determine whether they are meeting their promises and whether they are being properly enforced. She will also review NAFTA and work with our trade partners to make necessary adjustments to ensure they are working for America.
Reviewing trade agreements seems like a worthwhile thing to do. I can't see any real objections there. She is less specific on what she doesn't like about NAFTA than others have been.
Time-out for Trade. Hillary has called for a trade "time out" from new trade agreements as President, and she will not enter into new trade agreements until her Administration has reviewed all existing agreements and designed a genuinely pro-American, pro-worker trade policy that is appropriate for the 21st Century.
This is the one I don't understand. Why a "time-out"? As I think I've said before, we don't take time-outs for other big issues, like health care. I don't think a time-out is a sufficient answer to the question of what our trade policy should look like. Why not just adopt the line other moderate Democrats have taken, that trade agreements are good as long as they have labor and environment protections, and scale back investor protections? The only answer I can think of is that she wants to position herself closer to the Edwards wing and thus wants to take a stronger anti-trade stance.