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Report questions Clinton NAFTA position

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080306/ap_on_re_ca/canada_democrats_trade Report questions Clinton NAFTA position By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer 1 hour,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080306/ap_on_re_ca/canada_democrats_trade

      Report questions Clinton NAFTA position

      By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 6
      minutes ago

      TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of
      staff said someone in Hillary Rodham Clinton's
      campaign gave Canada back-channel assurances that her
      harsh words about the North American Free Trade
      Agreement were for political show, according to a
      report by the Canadian Press.

      The report comes just days after a Canadian government
      memo stated Barack Obama's senior economic adviser
      told Canadian officials that the Illinois senator's
      own comments about NAFTA were for "political
      positioning." The release of that memo helped Clinton
      defeat Obama decisively in Tuesday's Democratic
      primary in Ohio, where the trade treaty is unpopular.

      On Wednesday, the Canadian Press quoted an
      unidentified source at Canada's CTV television network
      as saying that Ian Brodie, Harper's chief of staff,
      made the comment last week to a CTV crew during a
      press gathering to discuss Canada's budget.

      According to a person with knowledge of the incident,
      the source was a CTV journalist.

      According to the report, a CTV reporter asked Brodie
      about remarks by Clinton and Obama that they would
      seek to renegotiate NAFTA.

      "He said someone from Clinton's campaign is telling
      the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. ... That
      someone called us and told us not to worry," the
      journalist quoted Brodie as saying, according to the
      report.

      On Thursday, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the
      campaign "flatly denied" the suggestion that a Clinton
      adviser had told Canadian government officials to take
      the candidate's tough talk on NAFTA with "a grain of
      salt."

      Brodie did not immediately respond to a call seeking
      comment.

      Some Democrats, as well as Canadian opposition
      parties, have accused Harper's Conservative government
      of meddling in the U.S. primary elections — in which
      Obama is in a close race with Clinton for the
      Democratic Party's nomination.

      In Ottawa, Canadian opposition parties demanded Brodie
      be fired.

      Harper told lawmakers in Parliament that the
      government would investigate the entire affair,
      referring to the alleged leaks about both the Clinton
      and Obama campaigns.

      "We're going to investigate this entire matter and
      take whatever action that is deemed necessary based on
      the facts that we are able to discover," Harper said,
      a day after he called the release of the memo unfair
      and possibly illegal.

      Canada's New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton
      blasted the alleged leaks.

      "There can be no doubt about it: The leak from within
      the Canadian government has had an impact now on the
      American elections," Layton said. "That is about the
      worst thing a country could do to another country — to
      have an effect on their democratic process."

      The U.S. ambassador to Canada called the release of
      the memo "unfortunate."

      "The prime minister yesterday stated that it was
      regretful that it happened and it shouldn't have
      happened," Ambassador David Wilkins told The
      Associated Press on Thursday. "Now we need to get it
      behind us and move forward and continue to actuate the
      positive and build on this great relationship we do
      have."

      Both Obama and Clinton said last week they would use
      the threat of pulling out of NAFTA to persuade Canada
      and Mexico to negotiate more protections for workers
      and the environment in the agreement.

      NAFTA is unpopular among many blue collar workers in
      the United States who say it has cost American jobs.

      A CTV report last week by Washington-based journalist
      Tom Clark said that both the Obama and Clinton
      campaigns gave Canada assurances over NAFTA. But the
      report led with Obama, and all the attention since
      then has been on his campaign.

      Clark told the AP he had multiple sources on his story
      including a senior official at the Canadian embassy in
      Washington.

      His TV report said a senior member of the Obama
      campaign contacted Canada's ambassador in Washington
      and told him any tough talk on NAFTA would just be
      campaign rhetoric. The Canadian embassy and the Obama
      campaign have both denied this.

      Clark's report also quoted sources as saying the
      Clinton campaign made "indirect contact" with the
      Canadian government to express their support for
      NAFTA. The Clinton campaign has denied this too.

      A 1,300-word memo obtained by the AP on Sunday, widely
      circulated within the Canadian government, said
      Obama's senior economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, told
      Canadian officials in Chicago that the debate over
      free trade in the Democratic presidential campaign was
      "political positioning."

      Goolsbee later said his comments were misinterpreted,
      and Obama denied offering the Canadians any such
      ideas. "Nobody reached out to the Canadians to try to
      assure them of anything," Obama told reporters Monday
      in Carrollton, Texas.

      Harper earlier denied his chief of staff leaked that
      memo, but didn't say anything about the CTV's report
      last week.

      ABC last week reported that Brodie was Clark's source.
      Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Harper said
      "Brodie does not recall discussing the matter."

      Clinton seized upon the memo to criticize Obama.

      "I think that's the kind of difference between talk
      and action that I've been talking about," Clinton told
      reporters while campaigning in Ohio on Monday. "It
      raises questions about Senator Obama coming to Ohio
      and giving speeches against NAFTA."

      The Canadian Press report raises questions about the
      Clinton campaign doing the same.
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