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McCain attacks Dems on NAFTA

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
ROUND ROCK, TX -- After several days of slamming Obama for his answer at Tuesday's debate about a hypothetical reinvasion of Iraq if Al Qaeda seized control, McCain today found a new line of attack in what is increasingly looking like a general election campaign: NAFTA.

Earlier at the debate on Tuesday, both Clinton and Obama said that they would use the threat of withdrawing from NAFTA to compel Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the terms of the trade agreement. But today, McCain called that irresponsible, especially in light of Canada's military support for the war in Afghanistan.

"One of our greatest assets we have in Afghanistan today, frankly, are our Canadian friends," he said. "It's very controversial in Canada, their commitment and the suffering and the losses they have faced. And we need, we need our Canadian friends and we need their continued support in Afghanistan.

"So what do we do? The two Democrat candidates for president say that they're going to unilaterally, they're going to unilaterally abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Our biggest trading partner, they're going -- who we made a solemn agreement with -- they're gonna unilaterally abrogate that. Now, how do you think the Canadian people are going to react to that –- who we are having now their enormous and invaluable assistance in Afghanistan and we're going to abrogate a free trade agreement?"

"I want to tell you right now I believe in free trade," McCain added.

Speaking to reporters after his town hall, he changed his rhetoric a little bit and muddied his point, admitting that neither of the Democrats have used the word 'abrogate' but that doesn't meant that they aren't looking to withdraw from NAFTA.

"Maybe they're not saying they'd, quote, abrogate. They are saying radically restructure," he said. "The point is not whether I want to renegotiate any terms. The point is whether you want to renegotiate or unilaterally announce that you are going to take certain action whether the Canadians happen to agree with it or not."

But that's not exactly what the Democrats are saying.

On Tuesday, Clinton said this about NAFTA: "It is not enough just to criticize NAFTA, which I have, and for some years now. I have put forth a very specific plan about what I would do. And it does include telling Canada and Mexico that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labor and environmental standards."

And Obama said this: "I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced."