The Washington Post

Robert Reich: For ‘fast track’ before he was against it?

 Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich in Washington last week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Former U.S. Labor secretary Robert Reich in Washington last week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Former Clinton Labor secretary Robert Reich, now teaching at UC-Berkeley, raised a ruckus Sunday on his Facebook page when he posted: “STOP THE TPP. Congress is poised to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (that is, move it through both houses without opportunity for amendment).”

He called on people to “raise a ruckus” and added: “I still regret not doing more to strengthen the North American Free Trade Act’s labor and environmental side-agreements” when he was working for Clinton. “The TPP is NAFTA on steroids.”

That strong stance drew hundreds of comments, many of them pointing out that Reich supported NAFTA back  in Clinton days and also a “fast-track” process. Asked about this, he e-mailed: “I pushed hard inside the Clinton administration for stronger labor and environmental side agreements to NAFTA. . . .  Wish I had done more.” And “As to fast-tracking trade agreements, though, had no role.”

Ah, but some beg to differ, pointing out, among other things, a 2007 speech he gave when the Bush administration was pushing for fast-track authority, calling it “vitally important.” He said it was “the only reason that any other country would sign a trade treaty with the United States,” lest they sign on and Congress then changes it.

In response, he quipped in an e-mail: “Al, I don’t recall what I said in Tampa in 2007. I’m lucky if I remember what I said yesterday.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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