Presidential Candidates on Foreign Policy—Trade

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What will U.S. foreign affairs look like if John McCain prevails? What if President Obama sets the agenda? Erik Leaver looks behind the hype to the records, advisors, and promises of the presidential candidates.

Click on the topics to see the candidates' statements on different aspects of foreign policy.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton spacer Barack Obama spacer John McCain
Hillary Clinton
Democratic Senator from New York
spacer Barack Obama
Democratic Senator from Illinois
spacer John McCain
Republican Senator from Arizona
“We need a 21st trade policy that allows us to better manage globalization. Trade policy cannot just protect the interests of elites. It must make our workers better off, and it must elevate standards of living around the world. That is why I have insisted on ever stronger labor and environmental provisions which will ensure that American workers are not caught in a race to the bottom. I have said that as President, I will take a timeout from new trade agreements.” [53] spacer “I support ensuring that future WTO negotiations are productive and fair to working people and the environment. I believe that we can work within the framework of the WTO to ensure our international standards for workers, poor nations, public health, and the environment are all improved. And we must ensure that global trade rules allow governments to pass nondiscriminatory laws and regulations that are in the public interest.” [53] spacer “Free trade should be the continuing principle that guides this nation's economy… As president I will aggressively promote global trade liberalization at the World Trade Organization and expand America's free-trade agreements to friendly nations on every continent.” [13]

What the outliers said:
Mike Huckabee:
“I don't want to see our food come from China, our oil come from Saudi Arabia and our manufacturing come from Europe and Asia.” [54]
Access to energy and natural resources
“For our national security and for our environment, we need to develop alternatives to oil… And though domestic production is important, we're not going to drill our way out of this problem. I have proposed a Strategic Energy Fund that gives oil companies a choice: either invest in biofuels and other clean energy technologies or pay a fee out of your profits into a fund.” [10] spacer “I am under no illusion that breaking our dependence on foreign oil will be easy… The fastest, easiest and cheapest thing we can do is change the way we consume energy… We also need to invest in researching and developing clean energy technology. That means the next generation of biofuels, it means pursuing alternate sources like wind and solar and it also means finding a way to make nuclear energy safe and coal energy clean.” [10] spacer “We need to stop spending $400 billion a year overseas to oil-producing countries that come right out of our economy immediately. Some of that money goes, unfortunately, to fund terrorist organizations. We've got to develop technologies to reduce this dependency on foreign oil, and eventually eliminate it, and stop this outflow of some $400 billion a year.” [55]
Foreign aid
Makes education the centerpiece of her foreign aid policy, “As president, I will press for quick passage of the Education for All Act, which would provide $10 billion over a five-year period to train teachers and build schools in the developing world.” [21] spacer Focuses aid at countries threatened by conflict and poverty. Pledges to double foreign aid spending by 2012. Sponsor of the Global Poverty Act requiring “a comprehensive strategy to … promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and reducing by one half the proportion of people worldwide who live on less than $1 per day.” [56] spacer Advocates trade over aid. “The United States should launch a major program designed not to increase handouts but rather to build capacity, improve education, cut red tape, and reduce the corruption that is the foremost impediment to economic growth.” [37]

What the outliers said:
Ron Paul:
Supports a non-interventionist foreign policy and the elimination of foreign aid to all nations. [57]

Erik Leaver wrote this article as part of A Just Foreign Policy, the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Erik Leaver is the policy outreach director for Foreign Policy In Focus and a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Photo of Eric Leaver

1. .
2. . Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus, February 4, 2008
3. .
4. . John McCain,
5. .
6. . Council on Foreign Relations
7. .
8. . Associated Press, February 22, 2005
9. , January 6th, 2008
10. . Houston Chronicle, February 29, 2008
11. .
12. . American Society of International Law, 2008
13. . John McCain, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
14. .
15. ., April 3rd, 2007
16. ., Chicago, October 02, 2007
17. . Council on Foreign Relations, Published August 5, 2007
18. , John McCain,
19.. Bill Richardson, Council for a Livable World
20. . Hillary Rodham Clinton, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
21. . Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007
22. . Philip Sherwell in Cedar Falls, Iowa,, March 19, 2007
23. Interview with Rudy Giuliani, The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2007
24. . Glenn Thrush, Washington Bureau, January 19, 2006
25. , New York Times, June 3rd, 2007
26. . Michael Gordon and Jeff Zelen, New York Times, November 1, 2007
27. . Council on Foreign Relations, July 17, 2007
28. . Mike Huckabee, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 28, 2007
29. . Remarks of Senator Clinton at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, January 19, 2006
30. . Justin Elliot, Mother Jones, February 1st, 2008
31. . Thomas Beaumont, Des Moines Register, March 13, 2007
32. . Paul Alexander, The Rolling Stone, September 27, 2001
33. . Council on Foreign Relations, April 23, 2008
34. Obama: Pluses, minuses on Latin America issues. Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald, February 17, 2008
35. . YouTube, February 10, 2008
36. . March 8, 2007
37. ., June 20, 2007
39. . MSNBC, April 27, 2007
40. . Hindustan Times, April 11, 2005
41. , Washington, D.C. Council on Foreign Relations, June 28, 2007
42. . Council on Foreign Relations
43. . John McCain and Bob Dole, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
44. . Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus , December 10, 2007
45. , March 6, 2008
46. . Sam Youngman, The Hill, March 1, 2008
47. ., Washington, DC, August 1st, 2007
48. .
49. . The Brookings Institution, February 25, 2004
50.. Council on Foreign Relations, August 1, 2007
51. . August 30, 2004
52. . John Edwards, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007
53. . February, 2008
54. . Michael Brendan Dougherty, The American Conservative, January 28, 2008
55. . Council on Foreign Relations, January 10, 2008
56. . April 23, 2007
57. . Ron Paul, Associated Press, December 23, 2007