"I know that Hillary on occasion has said — just last year said this (NAFTA) was a boon to the economy," Obama said during a Jan. 21, 2008, debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "I think it has been devastating, because our trade agreements did not have labor standards and environmental standards that would assure that workers in the U.S. were getting a square deal."
Obama's charge is designed to stoke suspicions among liberals and labor leaders that Clinton is in the thrall of big business Democrats who served in her husband's administration, such as former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, chairman of Citigroup Inc., and ex-Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, her top economic adviser.
Clinton, indeed, energetically promoted NAFTA in the past, thanking corporations for furthering its goals during an address to the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and adding, "It is certainly clear that we have not by any means finished the job that has begun."
But even before she formally announced her candidacy, Clinton was expressing increased skepticism about globalization and questioning whether other nations were taking advantage of the United States' liberalized trade policies.
The critical tone intensified during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. During an Oct. 8, 2007, speech in Iowa, she complained that New York apple growers had failed to gain access to Canadian markets while Canadian growers were having no such problems exporting their products to the United States, and blamed the Bush administration for not vigorously enforcing trade agreements.
"I think it is time that we assess trade agreements every five years to make sure they're meeting their goals or make adjustments if they are not and we should start with doing that with NAFTA," Clinton said.
The line attributed to Clinton about NAFTA being a "boon" to the economy appears to be based on an issues rundown in the Sept. 11, 2006, edition of Newsday in which the Long Island newspaper, in its own words, stated that Clinton believed the trade agreement to be a boon to the economy. The paper also pointed out that Clinton voted against the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement in 2005 because of concerns that it would drive jobs overseas.
Since announcing her candidacy, Clinton has, in fact, tried to distance herself from some of the free-trade policies her husband's administration pursued and repeatedly expressed concern and skepticism about the benefits of globalization.
In June 2007, she said NAFTA had some positive effects "but unfortunately it had a lot of downside." And at a debate in December 2007, she announced her intention to review and reform NAFTA if she were elected.
Obama implies Clinton views NAFTA as an unqualified success, but more importantly, he attributes words to her that only appear in a newspaper summary of the issues. We judge his statement to be False.