Source: Jeff Faux, Dissent, Vol. 56 no. 2, Spring 2009
When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pledged to Ohio Democrats last spring to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, they were immediately charged by the mainstream press with pandering to labor, thus re-igniting the simplistic “free-trade vs. protectionism” debate that has dominated the discussion of the U.S. role in the international economy for the last quarter-century. It was clearly and over reaction. After all, both candidates merely suggested strengthening the agreement’s labor and environmental protections, which even fierce champions of NAFTA now concede are inadequate. Changing them would have little effect on the rest of the agreement.
However, the world has changed dramatically since the treaty came into effect in 1994, making the economic and political assumptions upon which it was based obsolete. What is needed now is not a revision of NAFTA but an entirely new approach to North American integration in light of the two most important changes.