Clinton and Obama Follow Edwards on Trade

Democratic Presidential Frontrunners Voice Skepticism About NAFTA

ByABC News
April 23, 2007, 8:12 PM

— -- John Edwards is not the only major Democratic presidential candidate with serious reservations about a proposed free-trade agreement between the United States and South Korea.

ABC News has learned that the former North Carolina senator's top two rivals -- Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.-- also have grave concerns about the most economically significant free-trade pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trade is a difficult issue for Democrats because it forces them to weigh the concerns of friends in organized labor, who worry about the impact on U.S. jobs, and commercial interests who view trade liberalization as a ticket to faster economic growth.

"Senator Obama does not support the South Korea free trade agreement in itscurrent form," Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki tells ABC News. "He has serious concerns about the effect that the agreement would have on the American auto, beef, and rice industries, as well as the lack of labor and environmental protections in the agreement. Senator Obama is also troubled that the Bush Administration has not done more to help American workers who are losing their jobs as a result of the changing world economy."

The Clinton camp also expressed reservations about the trade agreement whose details the Bush administration is still finalizing.

"Senator Clinton has serious concerns about how the agreement would impact the United States and is particularly worried about how the auto industry would be affected," Clinton spokesperson Phil Singer tells ABC News.

Edwards, who is staking much of his 2008 presidential bid on support from organized labor, announced his opposition to the South Korea trade deal while speaking Saturday to a Democratic Party dinner in Michigan, a state which has been hard-hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

"A trade agreement with South Korea needs to start with their willingness to open markets to American automobiles and other U.S. products and agree to trade fairly," Edwards said Saturday. "It must also include strong labor and environmental standards and lift up workers in both parties."