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 Obama's positions on trade.

Trade agreements:

  • Obama proposed renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement to bolster labor and environmental standards.
  • He promises to use future trade agreements to raise labor and environmental standards.
  • He opposes the Colombia agreement because of violence against union leaders, but promises to work with Bogota to deepen the bilateral relationship.
  • He criticizes the South Korea trade because it doesn't sufficiently open the Korean market to U.S. autos, beef and rice.
  • His campaign expresses skepticism about President Bush's efforts to finish the Doha Round of multilateral trade talks this year.


  • Obama chastises the administration for taking no action against Chinese currency manipulation.
  • He co-sponsored legislation that would make currency undervaluation a subsidy and, as a result, would likely permit countervailing duties to be applied to Chinese imports.
  • This bill would direct the Treasury secretary to initiate negotiations with Beijing to revalue its currency.
  • He criticizes China's piracy of American intellectual property, and its industrial subsidies.
  • He generally calls for a more level playing field on U.S.-China trade.

Displaced workers:

  • Obama wants to update the existing Trade Adjustment Assistance program to include service workers.
  • He would create flexible education accounts to retrain workers.
  • He would provide retraining assistance for workers before they lose their jobs in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation.
  • He would provide assistance to hard-hit communities and improve the health care tax credit for dislocated workers.

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


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