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Riezman Comments on Dean Trade Message

Across Iowa, trade is a bubbling political issue. Agriculture is king in Iowa, but union workers at construction sites and farm equipment plants are expected to account for one-third of the participants in the state's Democratic caucuses on Jan. 19. Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri was supposed to have had support sewn up from voters angry about the perceived cost of free trade. He led the unsuccessful fight against the North American Free Trade Agreement in Congress in 1993, and vaulted to a resounding caucus win here in 1988 after airing a hard-line television ad in which he threatened to impose massive tariffs on South Korean cars if that country did not lower barriers to US vehicles. But in the tumble of politics, the man threatening Gephardt's lead in Iowa is the candidate who sang the praises of NAFTA not so long ago. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has leapt to the top of polls with a message that inverts his previous trade stance. On the stump, Dean said that he supported NAFTA in the 1990s because it was good for his Canada-bordering state. But now, he said, he believes that the trade agreement should be rewritten so that countries that trade with the United States abide by uniform labor, safety and environmental standards. Some economists say Dean's policy amounts to an antitrade message wrapped in trade-friendly language. "It's disguised protectionism," said RAYMOND RIEZMAN, professor of economics at the University of Iowa.


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