LAS VEGAS — Democrat John Edwards blamed Bill Clinton's administration Saturday for trade agreements unpopular with labor unions and warned against electing "corporate Democrats."
The Democratic presidential hopeful, speaking to union carpenters, tied rival Hillary Rodham Clinton to the business interests that unions claim were served by her husband's trade liberalization, to the detriment of workers.
Edwards described the North American Free Trade Agreement as a blow to the middle class that President Clinton put in place while the first lady was failing in her mission to reform health care.
"In the 1990s, we didn't get universal health care, which we needed," he said. "We got NAFTA, which we didn't need.
"I think we've been asking the wrong questions about these proposed trade deals," he added. "The question seems to have been, 'Is this trade deal good for the profits of big multinational corporations?'"
Edwards said his administration would ask, "Is this trade deal good for jobs and for working, middle-class America?"
The former North Carolina senator says he would renegotiate the 1993 deal that lowered trade barriers among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
New York Sen. Clinton said recently that trade agreements, including NAFTA, should be reviewed every five years to make sure "they're meeting their goals or to make adjustments if they are not."
Edwards described the stakes of the presidential race in stark terms, asking the crowd if they want to live in a country made up of "a few rich people and everybody else." He suggested his Democratic rivals would not serve the interests of workers.
"Do you want to trade a crowd of corporate Republicans that are running this country now for a crowd of corporate Democrats?" he asked. "That's not us."
Edwards is depending on the carpenters union in Nevada to help drive turnout in the Jan. 19 caucuses.
The local union and its international endorsed him in August. The union has 12,000 members in Nevada, although many are Republicans or nonpartisans.
Edwards met privately with members of another large Nevada union during his campaign stop in the state, his 14th since launching his presidential campaign. The Service Employees International Union, with about 17,000 members in Nevada, says it is considering endorsing Edwards, Clinton or Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.