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July 06, 2005

Why No Democratic Support for CAFTA?

Daniel Drezner has a reading comprehension problem.

He writes:

danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Free trade democrats, R.I.P. (1934-2005): Beginning with the passage of the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, there has always been a signifcant contingent of Democrats who supported the expansion of foreign trade -- even when Republicans were mostly protectionist. That was then.... Look, CAFTA is not perfect.... [W]hile it's undoubtedly true that one can point to protectionist Republicans who are members of Congress, one can't say that the entire party is behaving in a protectionist manner. That's no longer true of Congressional Democrats.

Drezner's wrong. And the story he cites does not say what he claims it says. It does not say that free-trade Democrats are gone. Its conclusion is very different, very different indeed:

CAFTA: [A] core group of as many as 50 pro-trade Democrats are voting against CAFTA.... They complain that the administration failed to consult them during negotiations, taking their votes for granted. And they say past trade agreements were accompanied by increased support for worker-retraining programs, education efforts and aid to dislocated workers -- support that the president has not provided.

"Free and open trade is an important component to widening the winner's circle for all Americans, but it's not a Johnny One Note part of the puzzle," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), a co-chairman of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, who voted for the most contentious trade bills of the past half-dozen years....

When Clinton pushed permanent normalized trade relations with China in 2000, he secured the support of 73 Democrats.... The tally on CAFTA, expected after the Fourth of July recess if the White House can find the votes, could yield just 10 Democratic supporters.... [O]pponents say the deal steps back from previous commitments to stronger environmental and labor standards....

Administration officials are inoculating themselves against Democratic attacks with a letter from former president Jimmy Carter imploring support for CAFTA. "Some improvements could be made in the trade bill, particularly on the labor protection side," Carter wrote, "but, more importantly, our own national security and hemispheric influence will be enhanced" by passage. Other Democratic supporters include a who's who list from the Clinton administration, including former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger and Cabinet members Warren M. Christopher, Henry G. Cisneros, Dan Glickman, William J. Perry and Donna E. Shalala, not to mention the presidents of the CAFTA countries....

Two business lobbyists -- one Republican, one Democrat -- said some corporate groups will be sympathetic to the Democrats' position. In a highly charged partisan atmosphere, Republicans intentionally marginalized free-trade Democrats during negotiations and then presented them with a take-it-or-leave it deal, goading them to oppose it, said the lobbyists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid harming relationships on Capitol Hill....

Posted by DeLong at July 6, 2005 02:23 PM