Clinton’s 1993 NAFTA Meeting

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 19, 2008 4:58pm

One interesting event in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s just-released schedules from the 1990s comes on Nov. 10 1993, when the former first lady was to serve as the closing act during a briefing on NAFTA, the trade agreement she now assails.

11:30 am –
11:45 am

NAFTA BRIEFING DROP-BY
Room 450, OEOB
CLOSED PRESS

PARTICIPANTS: Approx 120 expected to attend
(See briefing book for further info)

FORMAT:
- Alexis Herman intros HRC for brief remarks
-HRC concludes program

(pp. 1375 and 1376)

Two attendees of that closed-door briefing, neither of whom are affiliated with any campaign, describe that event for ABC News. It was a room full of women involved in international trade. David Gergen served as a sort of master of ceremonies as various women members of the Cabinet talked up NAFTA, which had yet to pass Congress.

"It wasn’t a drop-by it was organized around her participation," said one attendee. "Her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA and what a good thing it would be for the economy. There was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time. Folks were pleased that she came by. If this is a still a question about what Hillary’s position when she was First Lady, she was totally supportive of NAFTA.

That first attendee recalls that the First Lady’s office in the East Wing put together "the invitation list, who was invited authorizations and all that stuff."

And what is this attendee’s response to Clinton today distancing herself from NAFTA? "For people who worked hard to pass NAFTA and who support the importance of markets opening for the economy in the long term, they’re very upset. A number of the women who were there are very upset. You need to have some integrity in your position. The Clintons when Bill Clinton was president took a moderate position on trade for Democrats. For her to repudiate that now seems pretty phony."

Recalls a second attendee, "they were looking for women in international trade who supported NAFTA. Senator Clinton came by at the end. And of course she asked for our support and help in passing NAFTA."

Women who attended that event, the second attendee says, have been incredulous to see Clinton distance herself from the trade agreement as she campaigns today. "They’re all saying, ‘What’s this all about?’ We all heard it firsthand." She says Clinton isn’t being honest with voters today.

- jpt

UPDATE: The Clinton campaign has asked that I post this recent quote on CNN from Mr. Gergen, referenced above, saying, "I was actually there in the Clinton White House during the NAFTA fight and I must tell you Hillary Clinton was extremely unenthusiastic about NAFTA. And I think that’s putting it mildly. I’m not sure she objected to all the provisions of it but she just didn’t see why her husband and that White House had to go and do that fight. She was very unhappy about it and wanted to move on to health care. So I do think there’s some justification for her camp saying, you know, she’s never been a great backer for NAFTA."

It’s long-established that Hillary Clinton wanted to tackle health care before NAFTA. I don’t know that that necessarily undermines the idea that she supported NAFTA. But if she didn’t, then why was she telling this room full of businesswomen how great it would be for the economy?

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