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Candidates Stake Out Positions On International Trade And Jobs

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

As the presidential campaign enters its final stages, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have drawn clear battle lines on how they will address international trade and job preservation issues.  Both support “free and fair trade” but differ widely on how to achieve those goals.

Noting that 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside the United States and one in five American jobs depend on exports, McCain is placing heavy emphasis on export promotion. If elected, he will support more bi-lateral and multilateral trade agreements and is a strong supporter of the pending Colombia and South Korea free trade agreements. He says he is  opposed to “abrogating” existing trade agreements. Obama, on the other hand, while voicing his support for new trade agreements, attaches conditions to them. He believes free trade agreements should contain elements that provide for “good” labor and environmental standards. He is continuing to support renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement and is opposed to the Colombia pact. He contends that past agreements such as the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement “ fail to meet important benchmarks.”

Both candidates would use tax incentives to help keep American jobs at home and improve competitiveness. McCain would reduce taxes on US companies to help make them more competitive and would make an assault on what he calls “burdensome regulations.” Obama would go one step further and use taxes as both carrots and sticks. He would end tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas and provide tax incentives to help bolster companies that retain their manufacturing in the United States. In addition, he would award government contracts to companies manufacturing in the United States. Both candidates see a need to take further steps to protect US patents and copyrights from piracy by other countries.

McCain would seek an end to all agriculture tariffs, especially those imposed by overseas countries, and he is opposed to subsidies that are not based on a clear need. He wants to support small farmers but is opposed to  subsidizing farms with an average income in excess of $200,000 and net worth of $2 million.

There is agreement by both candidates that trade adjustment assistance programs designed to help workers whose jobs are displaced by foreign competition must be expanded and given additional funding for education and retraining.

October 28, 2008




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