I was intrigued by both candidates commitment to order Canada and Mexico to "re-negotiate NAFTA, or else we'll opt out." That gave me a few laughs on a number of fronts.
1. When you re-negotiate something, the other side(s) gets to throw some items on the table as well. Like maybe a BINDING dispute settlement process that the US can't walk away from when it loses. Both Clinton and Obama make it sound like the renegotiating is a piece of cake, America gets everything it wants, Canada and Mexico get nothing. The club is, of course, "opting out."
2. Obama blames NAFTA for jobs disappearing overseas. Overseas? Did someone dig a canal I haven't heard about? Most of the manufacturing jobs (from Canada too) are disappearing to Asia. NAFTA has nothing to do with that. All three countries have gained and lost jobs through NAFTA.
3. Why didn't anyone ask them what "opting out" of NAFTA would do for the US? It might do a lot for us, because we would no longer be obligated to sell oil, gas, electricity to the US at market prices and with no restrictions. That might present a long term opportunity to sell the oil, at least, to somebody else who doesn't want to "opt out." At the very least, we regain the right to sell it or not -- and tax it if it works for us.
4. Why didn't anyone ask them what "opting out" might mean for the 38 US states (including Ohio) for whom Canada is their largest export customer? Right now NAFTA guarantees unfettered, tariff free access to a market of more than 30 million. Do they really want to piss that away?
On the whole, I've found the quality of all these debates sadly lacking. They throw out these remarks about NAFTA to pander to voters in a state that, for god knows what reason, thinks NAFTA is the source of all their problems. They spend too much time watching (and believing) Lou Dobbs. Neither Obama nor Clinton are going to touch NAFTA because, as their economic advisers will tell them, there's far too much to lose. Labour standards? The US would have to raise its standards to meet Canada's; those jokers think it's only Mexico that poses a problem in NAFTA. Hell yes, lets renegotiate.
Other than that -- not a whole lot of substance and yes, the media focuses on the little jabs and jibes. The last guy who promised -- during an election of course -- to renegotiate NAFTA was prime minister Jean Chretien. He got elected on that promise -- and then happily signed on the dotted line when Mexico was brought in. So much for scrapping NAFTA.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.