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Monday, February 24, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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How The Candidates Stand On Trade Issues

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Japan's trade surplus is too high and its market access too restrictive."

Bush didn't actually utter that sentence. It was included in a speech written for him, but delivered by Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher after Bush fell ill during his trade mission to Tokyo last month. That trip, with U.S. auto-industry executives in tow, was widely viewed as a response to Pat Buchanan, and it elevated trade's prominence in the presidential campaign.

For most of his political career, Bush has been an avowed free-trader. His administration changed direction in December when Mosbacher began blaming the U.S. recession on the Japanese. The Asian trip, which had been scheduled as a diplomatic mission, was transformed into a search for "jobs, jobs, jobs," as Bush described it.

Administration officials now describe their goal as fair trade, not free trade. They are nonetheless pursuing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would make the U.S., Canada and Mexico into a single free-trade zone.

PAT BUCHANAN: "I want to do something for the textile industry. They ought to stop foreign imports putting guys up here out of jobs. That's my program."

Buchanan, the conservative columnist, has made trade a staple of his campaign. He is a protectionist who wants to "put America first."

He accuses Bush of selling U.S. workers down the river. His position is not much different on this issue than that of some

Democrats, notably Tom Harkin. And Buchanan's success in New Hampshire guarantees trade and the accompanying cries of economic nationalism will continue to have some prominence in the campaign.

Buchanan opposes the NAFTA.

JERRY BROWN: "You don't go there like George Bush to sip sake with the descendants of Samurai warriors and put forward a broken sword. You put forward the best, the sharpest point you can, and that means a modern car of the future."

If some of his rivals can fairly be described as trade hawks, Brown might be called a trade flamingo, standing on one leg off to the side, looking slightly awkward. He has been less likely to criticize trade partners than U.S. producers.

He doesn't have a position on the NAFTA.

BILL CLINTON: "Protectionism is just a fancy word for giving up. We need a new trade policy that says to Europe, Japan and our other trading partners: We favor an open trading system, but if you won't play by our rules, we'll play by yours."

Clinton has advocated tough sanctions against those who deserve them while admonishing American industry to get tougher with itself.

He favors the NAFTA.

TOM HARKIN: "We should tell Japan either you buy more from us or you sell us less. I'd say to the Japanese: In five years you'd better reduce the trade deficit close to zero; if not, we're going to close our door to you. That's not protectionist."

Harkin has been organized labor's biggest booster among the candidates and like labor blames many of America's problems on unfair foreign competition.

Harkin opposes the NAFTA.

BOB KERREY: "We must demand results in opening up a closed Japanese market - the single largest source of our trade deficit at $40 billion. Every time George Bush and the Japanese talk, the American economy continues its foreign trade hemorrhage."

Kerrey has been all over the map, not just in his travels, but in the degree of his emphasis on who causes trade problems, us or them. In New Hampshire, one TV advertisement showed him poised to defend a hockey goal from unfair Japanese goods. The spot bombed, and Kerrey backed away from the hawkish approach.

"It's interesting," a media consultant said. "Even in a state that's been absolutely hammered by foreign competition, they knew better."

Kerrey supports the NAFTA.

PAUL TSONGAS: "Protectionism might get someone elected, but it won't bring back the 70,000 jobs GM is cutting. It won't prevent foreclosures in New Hampshire or reduce the number of food-stamp recipients. It won't restore our economy to world leadership. We cannot compete internationally by bringing Japan or our other rivals down, but only by raising ourselves."

Tsongas says U.S. products don't sell overseas as well as they might because they're not made as well as the products they must compete with.

He promises to rebuild the country's economy through investment, mostly private, prompted by changes in the tax code.

Tsongas supports the NAFTA.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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