The administration has amended three Bush-era trade agreements, with Korea, Colombia and Panama, but these reforms fall short of the promise to bury NAFTA-style trade agreements. Most do little more than incorporate limited reforms in labor, environmental, and intellectual property provisions negotiated in May 2007 between the Bush Administration and the newly elected Democratic majority and since incorporated into the U.S.-Peru agreement.
"I am not going to say on a blanket basis that I'm going to vote against trade agreements," Obama said. "We cannot draw a moat around the U.S. economy because China is still trading, India is still trading."
Trucking remains contentious. Mr Obama has told the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, that he will deal with it. But the administration wants to see more trade move to rail and sea and off the roads. And when the presidents meet they tend to be occupied with more pressing matters of border security stemming from Mexico's drug war.
“I will work to maintain the American farmer’s competitiveness around the world, and ensure the growth of family farms. My pro-American trade agenda will ensure the interests of farmers and ranchers are not traded off in favor of other industries. I will work to ensure that all trade agreements contain strong and enforceable labor, environmental, and health and safety standards so American farmers are able to compete on a level playing field. I will instruct the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to negotiate agreements that grant American products access commensurate to access provided foreign products to the U.S. market, and I will examine existing U.S. trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA to ensure they do not undermine U.S. farmers."
"As part of any current or future trade agreement negotiations, our nation must address the dislocations caused by expanded global trade,' Obama said, 'by maintaining workers' basic benefits and helping them retrain and by providing communities hit with plant closings with tools and strategies to remain viable."
"Now is a time where we've got to be very careful about any signals of protectionism," the president said. "Because, as the economy of the world contracts, I think there's going to be a strong impulse on the part of constituencies in all countries to see if we -- they can engage in beggar-thy-neighbor policies."
"As I've said before, NAFTA, the basic framework of the agreement, has environmental and labour protections as side agreements. My argument has always been that we might as well incorporate them into the full agreement so that they're fully enforceable. I think there are a lot of sensitivities right now because of the huge decline in world trade." Noting that there was $1.5 billion in trade between Canada and the United States every day, he added: "It is not in anybody's interest to see that trade diminish."
"One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don't think NAFTA has been good for America -- and I never have. I don't think its realistic for us to repeal NAFTA, (any attempt to repeal it) would actually result in more job loss ... than job gains."