UAW leader: Clinton open to renegotiating NAFTA

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is open to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement that her husband and former President Bill Clinton crafted, United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said Tuesday.

He said Clinton during one-on-one meeting prior to the UAW endorsing the Democratic candidate in May said “she would dig into NAFTA” and “made every indication that she would sit down and try to redo NAFTA.”

“She recognizes that NAFTA is not the success that it was supposed to be; she recognizes the fact it must be renegotiated,” Williams said during a conference call with media from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

This is not the first time Clinton has indicated she might rework the trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In her 2008 campaign for president, Clinton called for a “trade timeout” and said NAFTA was “a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would.” The concession came after years of defending her husband’s landmark trade pact, according to

American unions have called the trade deal that took effect in 1994 a job killer that allowed companies to invest billions of dollars in Mexico and send hundreds of thousands of jobs south of the border.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump last week during the Republican National Convention vowed to use his business acumen to renegotiate the 22-year-old continental trade pact with Canada and Mexico, saying he would “walk away” from the pact if he couldn’t get a better deal for U.S. workers.

In the past two years, Trump has criticized Ford Motor Co. for taking advantage of NAFTA to invest more than $4 billion in Mexican auto assembly and parts facilities to build mostly cars that would be sold in the United States.

Williams, who has regularly criticized Trump for comments on labor, questioned the New York businessman’s ability and exact plans to renegotiate or kill the deal if elected president.

“What bothers us more than anything about what Trump says is he throws out these things and never gets into how he’s going to do something: ‘I’m going to make America great again.’ Does that mean we’re going to go back to slave wages and everything else?

“With Hillary Clinton we know what she’s capable of doing.”

Williams added she “has a visible track record” as a former secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady that the union supports.

Trump has the backing of many blue-collar workers that labor unions have prided themselves on representing. In May, Williams said an internal survey of union members found about 28 percent of members supported the billionaire businessman.

Williams said Tuesday said he believes the number has declined to less than 20 percent, but cited non-scientific reasoning. “We are already seeing indications of our members shifting,” he said.

Although not as influential as it once was at its peak of 1.5 million in 1979, the UAW has membership and retirees of more than 1 million, including about 412,000 active workers.

The UAW continues to fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries signed by political leaders, including President Barack Obama, earlier this year after seven years of negotiations.

“The issue of TPP, the issue of working men and women in this country, is still at our forefront,” Williams said. “We are pushing the agenda as much as possible.”

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Twitter: @MikeWayland