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  Democrats play the protectionist card in US presidential campaign
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ContributorEddie 
Last EditedEddie  Feb 29, 2004 05:06pm
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News DateSunday, February 29, 2004 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionDemocratic candidates are playing the trade protectionist card in their bids for the presidency, scrambling to draw in blue- and white-collar voters fearful of persistently weak US job markets.

The US economy has lost 2.3 million jobs since President George W. Bush took office. Democrats will make the most of sluggish job creation, said Brink Lindsey, an economist with the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

"The easy way to exploit the job losses -- because mainly of the recession and the slow jobs recovery and ... productivity gains -- is to blame foreigners," said Lindsey.

Edwards, from a working-class South Carolina family, has perhaps the harshest protectionist rhetoric.

Edwards underscores that in 1993 Kerry voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement, making the United States, Mexico and Canada in one market.

And Edwards quickly adds, that had he been a senator then, he would have voted against NAFTA unlike Kerry.

The North Carolina underdog says he has opposed trade deals since becoming a senator, with the sole exception of voting in favor of China's joining the World Trade Organization.

He justifies his opposition to these agreements by saying they do not have any minimum wage guarantees or environmental guarantees.

Kerry, while much more cautious, still speaks in favor of free trade in the Senate, while denouncing outsourcing and has pledged to review trade deals to eliminate tax incentives for corporations to export jobs. Edwards has echoed the same proposals.

But according to Gary Hufbauer, an economist and senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics: "Kerry and even Edwards know they cannot take protectionist measures without triggering backlash form exporting countries."
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