NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 16, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on trade?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of McCain's positions on trade.

Trade agreements:

  • McCain calls himself an "unashamed and unabashed defender" of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement and criticizes Obama's "protectionist NAFTA-bashing."
  • He supports a pending free-trade agreement with Colombia and backs the pending South Korea free-trade agreement, citing Seoul's pivotal role as a strategic ally in Northeast Asia and in Iraq.
  • He has voiced support for an eventual free-trade agreement with the European Union.
  • He promises to seek an end to all agricultural tariffs and farm subsidizes that are not based on clear need and to "aggressively promote trade liberalization at the World Trade Organization."
  • He vows to hold "every nation we trade with to the commitments they have made under the agreements we have signed."


  • McCain says that a robust trading relationship with China, America's fastest-growing export partner, is in the best interest of the United States.
  • To that end, in 2000 he voted in favor of permanent normal trade relations with China, which opened the door for Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization.
  • He argues against focusing too much "in isolation" on the overvalued Chinese currency.
  • He pledges to pressure Beijing on food and product safety and on intellectual-property protection.

Displaced workers:

  • McCain would deposit a portion of each person's unemployment insurance taxes into a "lost-earnings buffer account" that workers could use to cover expenses when they lose their jobs.
  • Traditional unemployment insurance would kick in if the new account was exhausted within 26 weeks.
  • A worker would receive any unspent funds upon retirement.
  • He would also give workers access to a flexible training account to provide quick assistance in seeking new skills.

Source: "McCain on Trade," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


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