Did Hillary Clinton oppose moving forward on NAFTA in 1993? Robert Reich tells what he remembers:
Hillary and Barack, Afta Nafta, by Robert Reich: Was Hillary Clinton really against NAFTA in 1993? I was in the administration then, and I remember her position quite precisely. And I'll get to that in a moment. But before I do, I want to say something: It’s a shame the Democratic candidates for president feel they have to make trade – specifically NAFTA – the enemy of blue-collar workers and the putative cause of their difficulties. NAFTA is not to blame. ... What happened? The economy ... crashed in late 2000, and the manufacturing jobs lost in that last recession never came back. They didn’t come back for two reasons: In some cases, employers automated the jobs out of existence... In other cases, employers shipped the jobs abroad, mostly to China – not to Mexico.
NAFTA has become a symbol for the mounting insecurities felt by blue-collar Americans. While the ... winners from trade ... far exceed the losers, there’s a big problem: The costs fall disproportionately on the losers -- mostly blue-collar workers who get dumped because their jobs can be done more cheaply by someone abroad...
Even though the winners from free trade could theoretically compensate the losers and still come out ahead, they don’t. America doesn’t have a system for helping job losers find new jobs that pay about the same as the ones they’ve lost... There’s no national retraining system. Unemployment insurance reaches fewer than 40 percent of people who lose their jobs... We have no national health care system to cover job losers and their families. There's no wage insurance. Nothing. And unless or until America finds a way to help the losers, the backlash against trade is only going to grow.
Get me? The Dems shouldn't be redebating NAFTA. They should be debating how to help Americans adapt to a new economy in which no job is safe. Okay, so back to my initial question. The answer is HRC didn't want the Administration to move forward with NAFTA, but not because she was opposed to NAFTA as a policy. She opposed NAFTA because of its timing. She wanted her health-care plan to be voted on first. She feared that the fight over NAFTA would use up so much of the White House's political capital that there wouldn't be enough left when it came to pushing for health care. In retrospect, she was probably right.