On the January 8 broadcast of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, ABC News Washington correspondent Cokie Roberts asserted that if Democrats pursue “fair trade” policies instead of “free trade” policies, they will be “essentially on the wrong side of history with globalization.” Roberts made the assertion in response to host Steve Inskeep's request that she comment on his interview with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
Brown had addressed precisely the question of “history,” saying that “mainstream Democrats” have “evolved” from the early 1990s, when President Clinton pushed for congressional approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Brown said: "[T]here has been an evolution among almost all Democrats that these trade agreements simply need to be constructed in a different way for fair trade, not for free trade."
Roberts did not address the specific elements Brown laid out as part of a “fair trade” policy: ensuring compliance with environmental and labor standards. Rather, she simply responded to Inskeep's characterization of Brown's position as “cracking down on free trade.” Roberts warned that opposition to free trade would be a “long-term loser” for Democrats and that Democrats “have to be very careful here, and there's a lot of division among Democrats on this issue.”
From the January 8 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition:
INSKEEP: Is there a danger of this being any kind of distraction for Democrats because you still do have what we could call the Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, which, for example, pushed for the NAFTA free trade agreement?
BROWN: That was 15 years ago. The so-called Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic Party has evolved into the mainstream Democrats, which we are, that say that we need trade agreements with environmental and labor standards. There has been an evolution since China in the late '90s, there has been an evolution among almost all Democrats that these trade agreements simply need to be constructed in a different way for fair trade, not for free trade.
INSKEEP: We interviewed Senator Brown to begin our series on what Democrats stand for as they take over Congress, and NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts has been listening in. Cokie, is the notion of cracking down on free trade a winning issue for Democrats?
ROBERTS: It is in some states and in some districts, but it's a long-term loser. It puts them essentially on the wrong side of history with globalization. And even though labor unions often lose in trade agreements, consumers gain. And so the Democrats have to be very careful here, and there's a lot of division among Democrats on this issue.
INSKEEP: OK, Cokie, thanks very much. We'll continue watching that issue and others.