President-elect Obama on Auto Aid, Trade, Card Check

By December 10, 2008Labor Unions, Trade

In his first one-on-one newspaper interview since winning election, President-elect Obama comments on a wide range of issues, including those of keen interest to those involved in the manufacturing economy — trade, union issues and the proposed financial relief to the domestic automakers.

He comments but doesn’t really provide any clear answers. The media will give him a pass for a while on this non-commitalness, but they’ll get frustrated soon enough.

The interview was conducted Tuesday in Chicago by the Los Angeles Times the Chicago Tribune.

On card-check protection [which would make it easier for unions to organize], we’ve heard that there might be a delay on that, or it might not be an immediate priority? Also, on NAFTA, we’ve heard that you might support maybe a study and then a report, instead of a wholesale reworking of the agreement right away?

Well look, my economic team is reviewing these issues. You know, I’ve consistently said on trade issues that I want environmental and labor provisions that are enforceable in those trade agreements. But I also have said that I believe in free trade and don’t think that we can draw a moat around the American economy. I think that would be a mistake. When it comes to unions, I have consistently said that I want to strengthen the union movement in this country and put an end to the kinds of barriers and roadblocks that are in the way of workers legitimately coming together in order to form a union and bargain collectively. My economic team is going to put together a package on trade and on worker issues that will be presented to me. I don’t want to anticipate right now what sequences will be on these issues.

No answers there.

And on the auto industry…

The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing in many states, certainly across the Midwest. You’ve got millions of people who are reliant on those industries . . . and what’s unique about this time is because you have a convergence of lost demand as well as a financial crisis where nobody can get credit, even sound companies. You’ve got unique circumstances where if GM, for example, went bankrupt, it’s not clear that it could engage in the same kind of Chapter 11 bankruptcy that the airlines went through, for example, restructuring, but still operating. You have issues of would consumers still buy a car if they can’t have an assurance that their warranties are going to be respected. And so, there are a range of particular circumstances that we have to address right now because you have sort of a perfect storm.

But what I absolutely believe in is that as soon as we can stabilize the economy, that we’ve got to step back and say, how do we create an economic and regulatory framework that avoids these risks in the first place, doesn’t put taxpayer money at risk, that ensures the dynamism of the free market is operating, and innovation is operating, and that there are going to be successes and failures, and we’re not in the business of picking winners and losers? And that’s what’s always made the American economy dynamic and that’s the vision that I intend to continue.

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