Hillary Clinton’s Unilateralist Trade Policy
Dan Drezner takes to NPR’s airwaves to comment on Hillary Clinton’s proposal to sunset free trade agreements every five years.
Her campaign website proudly declares that as president, Clinton would restore America’s standing in the world. Last week, however, she proposed that we reassess our trade agreements every five years and demand adjustments to them if necessary, starting with NAFTA.
This proposal makes me wonder if Senator Clinton understands the value-added of these free-trade agreements, or FTAs. The dirty secret is that most FTAs do not have large effects on the American economy, but they do yield foreign policy dividends. These agreements cement ties with key allies. They offer a guarantee to these countries that their relationship with the United States — and their access to American consumers — will not be disrupted. Compare the unease and mistrust that characterized Mexican-American relations prior to NAFTA with the past 15 years. The effect can be dramatic.
In short, trade agreements improve America’s standing in the world. But Senator Clinton’s proposal would strip these agreements of the very certainty that makes them attractive to our allies. How does Senator Clinton think our trading partners in the Middle East, Central America, and Pacific Rim will react to her proposal? How is this proposal any different from the unilateralism that Democrats have condemned for the past six years?
He’s right. What’s especially odd is that the one facet of Bill Clinton’s presidency that is almost universally praised was his steadfast — and politically courageous — support for free trade principles. It would be ironic, indeed, if his wife reversed that policy.