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June 11, 2008 2:16 AM

Business, Fashion

Fashion Industry Cautiously Anticipates '08 Trade Policy

While Congress scales back its agenda before it adjourns for the summer, the political season is heating up. The race for the White House has taken on new life now that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has become the presumptive Democratic...

While Congress scales back its agenda before it adjourns for the summer, the political season is heating up. The race for the White House has taken on new life now that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has become the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. It will be my first time overseeing WWD's coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions, and the late summer events promise to be not only historic but also a study in contrasts.

Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP's presumptive nominee, are the perfect yin and yang when it comes to a host of issues, including trade, foreign policy and health care. McCain, the 71 year-old decorated war veteran who has spent 22 years in the Senate will go head to head with Obama - a rookie senator and former activist whose oratory style and call for change has captivated millions.

Against this backdrop, the fashion industry, which has a big stake in Washington politics - with $95.5 billion in imports coming into the country every year - is watching how the debate over free trade versus protectionism will unfold between the two candidates. Obama has been the trade skeptic on the campaign trail, calling for an amendment to the North American Free Trade Agreement, tougher action against China and stronger labor and environmental protections, while McCain has traveled through hard-hit industrial states like Ohio and Michigan, championing free trade and railing against "protectionists."

While the Iraq War is sure to be a key issue in the campaign and at the conventions, the country's economic woes should focus much of the debate on trade policy and will likely be the center of attention for WWD's coverage, as well.
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