From a recent speech by Obama:
But even as we welcome competition, we need to remember that our economic policies must be supported by strong and smart trade policies. I have said before, and will say again – I believe in free trade. It can save money for our consumers, generate business for U.S. exporters, and expand global wealth. But unlike George Bush and John McCain, I do not think that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. I don't think an agreement that allows South Korea to import hundreds of thousands of cars into the U.S., but continues to restrict U.S. car exports into South Korea to a few thousand, is a smart deal. I don't think that trade agreements without labor or environmental agreements are in our long term interests
If we continue to let our trade policy be dictated by special interests, then American workers will continue to be undermined, and public support for robust trade will continue to erode. That might make sense to the Washington lobbyists who run Senator McCain's campaign, but it won't help our nation compete. Allowing subsidized and unfairly traded products to flood our markets is not free trade and it's not fair to the people of Michigan. We cannot stand by while countries manipulate currencies to promote exports, creating huge imbalances in the global economy. We cannot let foreign regulatory policies exclude American products. We cannot let enforcement of existing trade agreements take a backseat to the negotiation of new ones. Put simply, we need tougher negotiators on our side of the table – to strike bargains that are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street. And when I am President, that's what we will do.
I didn't see much new here. Just the usual generalities. I hope some day soon to get a clearer picture of what Obama wants to do on trade (for example, what parts of NAFTA does he dislike? what does he want the rules to say?), but this seemed like the standard line he always gives. So, I was a bit surprised by this reaction:
Following Sen. Barack Obama's speech on competitiveness in Flint, Mich., McCain adviser Carly Fiorina blasted the Illinois senator's trade positions in a conference call with reporters.
"Competitiveness requires competing, and competing means that we must be a nation that engages fully in free trade. Many have called Barack Obama the most protectionist candidate that the Democratic Party has ever fielded, and indeed his record supports that charge. He has said on numerous occasions that we should unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA. He voted against free trade agreements with our friends and allies like Colombia and South Korea. Fairly clear, from the reality of his record, if you set aside his rhetoric, Barack Obama does not believe that Americans can compete with anyone in the world."
That all seemed a bit over the top to me. Take the Korea FTA example. If you vote against it because you think the U.S. did not get a good enough deal, as Obama appears to believe, are you protectionist or are you devoted to the most free trade that the U.S. can possibly get? OK, that's probably a bit over the top as well, but the point is just that these "protectionst"/"free trade" labels need to be used carefully.