Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against Trade Bill She Negotiated and Touted

Obama's first Secretary of State has come out against Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership.

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Hillary Clinton has joined the rest of the field for the Democratic nomination opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal she helped negotiated as Secretary of State and which she praised in her book Hard Choices.

PBS NewsHour:

Just days after the U.S. and 11 nations released a monumental trade deal that still faces a fight in Congress, Hillary Clinton says she does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Speaking with Judy Woodruff Wednesday, the Democratic presidential candidate said that as of today, given what she knows of the deal, it does not meet her bar for creating jobs, raising wages for Americans and advancing national security.

Speaking at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, as part of a two-day swing through the leadoff caucus state, Clinton said that she’s worried “about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement” and that “pharmaceutical companies may have gotten more benefits and patients fewer.”

“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said, later adding, “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein notes that this further separates Clinton from Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to soon announce whether he’s joining the race:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton voiced her opposition Wednesday to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, bucking her former boss and creating more distance between herself and possible primary rival Vice President Joe Biden.

“What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” the former secretary of state said in an interview with PBS News Hour. “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

Clinton was generally supportive of the deal during her four years working in President Barack Obama’s administration and allowed for some wiggle room to still support TPP or other future trade deals. In a written statement sent after the interview was released, she stipulated that she is “continuing to learn about the deals” of the agreement.

The Democratic front-runner’s conditional opposition to the deal comes as Biden, whose policy positions hew more closely to Clinton’s than any other candidate, continues to support the deal and will work to build support for it on Capitol Hill, an aide confirmed Wednesday. Biden has not yet announced whether he will run for the Democratic nomination but if he does, his presence in the race will likely force Clinton to more sharply define her positions on issues that have been important to the Obama administration.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s main challenger in the race, drew attention to the amount of time it took her to come to a verdict on an issue he has long opposed.

“I’m glad that she reached that conclusion,” he told reporters in Washington. “This is a conclusion that I reached on day one.”

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who, like Sanders, has for months been outspoken about his opposition to TPP, made sure to jab at Clinton after she weighed in Wednesday.

“Wow! That’s a reversal!” O’Malley said in a statement. “Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this, but I didn’t have one opinion 8 months ago and switch that opinion on the eve of debates. I’m against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I let people know that from the outset, and I think we need to focus on building up our own economy.”

Clinton has increasingly been distancing herself from the Obama administration, voicing her opposition last month to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline—an issue that the administration is still considering—and saying she supports a no-fly zone over Syria. She also tweaked the president’s enforcement of deportation laws in an interview released earlier this week.

With both the Keystone and TPP announcements, Clinton’s staff gave the White House notice before she announced her positions. In both cases, she’s taken a position that appeals to the left wing of her party.

Coming out against administration positions that she supported while in the administration is drawing the jeering one would expect. In addition to the above-mentioned potshots from her Democratic opponents, CNN’s Jake Tapper found “45 times Secretary Clinton pushed the trade bill she now opposes” back in June when she was hedging her bets. But it’s not necessarily hypocritical or flip-flopping. After all, as Secretary of State she represented President Obama to the world; most cabinet secretaries oppose at least some of their boss’ policies and nonetheless vigorously execute them.

 

Then again, she left the administration in January 2013 and continued to support TPP.  CBS’ Rebecca Kaplan:

Even after leaving the Obama administration, Clinton complimented the trade deal in her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices.”

“It’s safe to say that TPP won’t be perfect – no deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be – but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers,” she wrote.

The problem is that Clinton’s history here lends one to believe this latest position is opportunistic rather than principled. AP’s Lisa Lerer:

Clinton’s support for trade deals has seemed to fluctuate with the political calendar.

As first lady, she trumpeted the North American deal brokered by her husband, telling unionized garment workers in 1996 that the agreement was “proving its worth.”

Her support for trade pacts began softening during her time as a New York senator, when she voted for trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Oman, and Morocco but opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

In a November 2007 presidential debate, Clinton described the North American agreement, with Canada and Mexico, as “a mistake” and called for a “trade timeout.”

In that vein, she said she opposed then-pending trade agreements with Korea, Columbia, and Panama. But fast-forward to July 2011 when, as secretary of state, she described those three deals as “critical to our economic recovery.”

She also repeatedly lent her support to the Pacific trade initiative being pushed by Obama, at that time, describing the deal during a 2012 trip to Australia as the “gold standard in trade agreements.”

It’s possible that she truly supported the vision for TPP that existed at the time she was Secretary and up through the time that she submitted the manuscript of the book she “wrote” and simply views the details of the actually-negotiated deal as unacceptable. If so, she’s privy to some serious inside information since, as Dave Schuler repeatedly points out at his own place, the details thus far are strangely not public.

In terms of the policy itself, I’ll take Dave’s tack of waiting until we know what’s in the deal before taking a position on it.  My reflexive view is to be in support of free trade agreements while his reflexive view is opposition on grounds that they’re almost invariably “managed trade” in that a true free trade deal can be “written on a napkin.” In this case, I share Dave’s concern and that of most of the Democratic candidates that, since the low-hanging fruit is long since snatched, we’re now negotiating mostly with less developed countries whose labor and environmental standards are far below ours and are thus participating in a race to the bottom. My instinct is nonetheless to expand the notion of free trade—and, indeed, simply create more formal agreements—for their shaping effects. On the practical side, Dave is right that the real prize here is Japan and we simply don’t know what the deal does there.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Stonetools says:

    Clinton may be opportunistic here ( as most politicians tend to be) but she did use the weasel words “What I know, as of today”. Plenty of wiggle room there. Compared to Saint Ronaldus Reagan doing a complete 180 on Medicare in 1980, she has been a model of consistency on the issue.
    It seems that the Democratic base, or at least liberal pundits, has made opposition to the TPP a “must oppose” position. I am reserving judgment till there is more disclosure, but I am skeptical of it too for now.

  2. Todd says:

    This is precisely why I roll my eyes when some of the other commenters here lament that we need to pay more attention to Clinton’s policy proposals. Why? Who could possibly believe that virtually anything she says is what she actually thinks (or will do) anyway.

    She epitomizes everything that people can’t stand about politicians. It boggles my mind how so many Democrats still think she is their best bet of keeping the Presidency in 2016.

    p.s. Her lack of loyalty to the current administration is also why I’m so hopeful that Joe Biden will get into the race. Bernie Sanders can vehemently disagree with the Obama administration on many of these same policies and still have my respect, because these have been his positions pretty much forever. When she takes different positions, it just strikes me more as spite … her feeling that she really should have been the President these past 7 years.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that politics is going on in this election!

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    This is going to blow over fast. Outside of DC, there’s nobody who believes that being in support of free trade is some sort of principled position. Instead, it’s a bunch of politicians, wonks, and journalists doing what they are paid to do. So Hillary breaking ranks is what? Opportunistic? Sure. But what’s the opportunity? Shooting down a deal that will help nobody except the rich? It’s like the main problem here is that she’s being an opportunist in return for votes, rather than money from donors at Goldman Sachs.

  5. Argon says:

    She’s put a shot into her own goal and continues to be her own worst enemy. She doesn’t have her husband’s skills at triangulation.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    To me, someone who pays attention to politics, this is a major WTF moment.
    Unfortunately very few people have any idea what it is about.
    They are all mesmerized by the Donald’s comb-over.

  7. Scott says:

    There is going to be a lot of uninformed hand-wringing over the TPP. The last place for emotional and gut-monitoring analysis is something as complex as a multi-lateral trade agreement. I would like to see some details, not speculations. I note as a start that 1st world countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan are part of the deal. It is not just the US and third world countries. So what do they say about it and why?

    In a sense, this reminds me of the Iran agreement. All the emotional arguments against it didn’t stand up to reality and I don’t think that the anti TPP arguments will have much standing either.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    @Scott:

    I note as a start that 1st world countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan are part of the deal.

    We already have “free trade” agreements with Canada, Australia, Mexico, and several of the other, smaller parties to the TPP. The only major economy who’s party to the agreement that we don’t have such an agreement with is Japan.

    BTW, those aren’t scare quotes. They’re actual quotation marks. The agreement is a managed trade agreement not a free trade agreement. You can write a free trade agreement on the back of a napkin and agree to it in an afternoon.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    If Hillary wants the support of labor she must oppose it. Is that opportunistic? Of course but that’s politics. In Canada the conservative Harper may lose his reelection bid because of his support for TPP.

  10. Tillman says:

    @Modulo Myself: that’s because she’s already covered her bases vis a vis the banks. Wall Street knows they’re the villains (rightly or wrongly): they just need some cover-fire, not a doomed charge. They (and I imagine most people) wouldn’t put money behind the “brave six hundred” unless it was a short sell.

  11. Todd says:

    @Scott:

    In a sense, this reminds me of the Iran agreement. All the emotional arguments against it didn’t stand up to reality and I don’t think that the anti TPP arguments will have much standing either.

    That has been pretty much my feeling about this issue too. This is Liberals pushing a hyperbolic reaction to a deal (negotiated by a President of their own party no less) simply because it doesn’t fit into their definition of ideal.

  12. Modulo Myself says:

    @Todd:

    In this case, I share Dave’s concern and that of most of the Democratic candidates that, since the low-hanging fruit is long since snatched, we’re now negotiating mostly with less developed countries whose labor and environmental standards are far below ours and are thus participating in a race to the bottom. My instinct is nonetheless to expand the notion of free trade—and, indeed, simply create more formal agreements—for their shaping effects.

    This is James calling it a ‘race to the bottom’. And he supports it! Meanwhile, the delusional left filled with hyperbole doesn’t idealize this journey to the gutter. Picky, picky.

  13. John430 says:

    Hillary’s “flexibility” is what the rest of the country calls “flip-flopping”

  14. James Joyner says:

    @Modulo Myself: I’m acknowledging the principled objections, mostly from the left but also the populist right, against more recent FTAs. As noted, I don’t know enough about this particular agreement to know whether it’s on balance worthwhile; I just have an instinctive affection for FTAs. I worry about the “race to the bottom” and think it prudent to work against it. But agreements can be a way of doing that. And the ties created by FTAs are almost universally positive for a variety of reasons that go beyond trade.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Dave Schuler: Um, I would think the inclusion of Japan to be a pretty big deal…

  16. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    Bottom line is that nobody has any trust in agreements. The funny thing is that blaming agreements rather than capitalism is a way of actually having faith in capitalism. It’s like blaming immigrants for low wages rather than the people happy to pay them. After all, if someone’s point is that global capitalism was bound to end up looking like a stagnant mess for a high number of people, then you have a major problem. Which in fact we do.

    So there’s absolutely no downside for Hillary Clinton doing this. She’s not trusted anyway.

  17. Scott says:

    @Dave Schuler: I guess you can look at managed trade agreements two ways: 1) the system will be rigged or 2) establishing a common framework in which to operate. One’s nefarious and the other sensible.

    So which category does the TPP fall into?

  18. Lenoxus says:

    I’m slightly against the TPP (although because of the secrecy there’s a sense in which none of us really know if we’re for or against it). But I’m frustrated by the nationalism in which so much of the opposition is framed — that out sole concern should be how it affects Americans, full stop. Both Clinton and Sanders seem only vapable of speaking that way when posting it. I understand the political constraints on them, but it would be nice if they could attack it from an angle of “this is bad for poor people around the world”, or something.

    If the actual effect of the agreement would be to lower the first-world standard of living and raise it equivalently for the third world, then I’m all for it. But we’ll never hear a politician suggest as much. Asking the greatest country on Earth to make sacrifices would be unpatriotic — what does “greatest country on Earth” mean if not “deservedly always first in line”?

  19. Jack says:

    Clinton’s history here lends one to believe this latest position is opportunistic rather than principled

    Color me shocked. Just SHOCKED, that a Clinton would be opportunistic rather than principled.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Jack:

    Color me shocked. Just SHOCKED, that a Clinton politician would be opportunistic rather than principled.

    FTFY. How soon we forget John McCain’s full spectrum policy positions or Mitt Romney’s comprehensive mendacity. I’m not defending Hillary, she lies too. Just setting a little context.

  21. Dave Schuler says:

    @Scott:

    Probably some of both but we honestly have no idea and won’t until the actual documents are made public in their entirety.

  22. Jeremy R says:

    She really needed to pick better fig leaves for this move, as what she’s highlighting makes no sense. When she was backing it, the trade deal never dealt w/ currency manipulation and the minimum 5 years + a voluntary 3 for pharmaceutical biologics data protection is to the left of what the US was originally pushing for.

  23. anjin-san says:

    @C. Clavin:

    They are all mesmerized by the Donald’s comb-over.

    You are just jealous of Mr. Trump.

    Loser.

  24. the Q says:

    Let me give you the straight dope on the TPP. You neolib dems who are supporting it and HRC are delusional, naive and misinformed. Not all gangster shiiiteheads are republican – they exist in liberal-land too and the gainsaying of this in our party because we are Dems is disappointing.

    Let me give you an insight as I know many of the players on the negotiating team.

    Lets start with Froman and Selig. Froman is the USTR and Seiig is an Undersecretary of Commerce in the ITA,

    Froman got a $4 miilion dollar bonus to be the USTR from Citibank as he was in the Clinton admin and was bob rubin’s right hand man at Treasury who followed him to Citi as they single handedly destroyed Glass Steagall with the help of idiot Phil Gramm on their way to making hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves at Citi. Selig got a $9 million package from BofA to quit and join the government. google the details. Big corporations paying their employees to join the government. WHY?

    Because they write the phucking laws, then go back to the private sector and profit by the mess.

    So lets see who benefits from this TPP insanity. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Big Pharma, Insurance companies and finance capital…the backbone of Obama’s support.

    It is with amazement that I watch him destroy labor with his support of this bill, but then Obama’s been in my neck of the woods (West LA) dozens of times for fund raisers before he jets up to Silicon Valley to do the same. The IP protocols, copyright/trademark protections in TPP are a sop to these billionaires. When was the last time Obama went to Indiana for $$$$$$ or Ohio?

    The white collar criminals in the above industries all benefit by TPP. Who loses? Blue collar manufacturing jobs, small business, jobs in the south and midwest that employ white high school grads.

    Why them? Look at the blue/red map…the jobs lost and those hardest hit will be the Jesus freak, gun loving queen haters who live in the south and Midwest. Remember the furniture and textile industry thrived in those states, but got destroyed by China’s entry into the WTO.

    If you are a Dem, the reaction is “good, those redneck dipschitz deserve to get schitt on since they never vote Dem”…and thats PRECISELY whats gonna happen.

    Real world example…the US Korea Free trade agreement from 3 years ago. Of course it means jobs jobs jobs (75,000 predicted by Obama) because we are “opening” up Korea to U.S. made products. The results? Trade imbalance has almost tripled with Korea and we HAVE LOST JOBS. Here’s Commerce’s blurb about what they thought would happen from 2012:

    “The entry into force of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement on March 15, 2012 means countless new opportunities for U.S. exporters to sell more Made-in-America goods, services, and agricultural products to Korean customers – and to support more good jobs here at home. If you’re an American exporter, here are resources to answer your questions about how the U.S.-Korea trade agreement can work for you”

    Sound familiar? Put Nafta or TPP in there for US-Korea and the verbiage is the same. Real world result was predictable: its a disaster. In the first three years after the agreement took effect, U.S. domestic exports to Korea increased by only $0.8 billion, an increase of 1.8%. Imports from Korea increased $12.6 billion, an increase of 22.5%. As a result, the U.S.trade deficit with Korea increased $11.8 billion between 2011 and 2014, an increase of 80.4%, nearly doubling in just three years.

    Again, you boomers haven’t a clue about what sellouts these Dems are. I have zero respect for Obama over his support for TPP. For sure it will ruin many families (even if most are dead head red state dumbshitz) – its just not right.

    HRC of course will say and do anything to win. The old Dems (like myself) saw the party die in the 90s when Bayh, From, Nunn and Clinton and the other wretched azzholes formed the DLC and we became Republicans for the most part.

    Just know what and who you are really supporting and be phucking honest about it.

  25. Lenoxus says:

    the Q:

    The old Dems (like myself) saw the party die in the 90s when Bayh, From, Nunn and Clinton and the other wretched azzholes formed the DLC and we became Republicans for the most part.

    ?

  26. the Q says:

    The party is now very Republican is what I meant as a result of the DLC influence. Just look who the front runner is – someone who thinks big banks didn’t cause the great recession.

  27. Grewgills says:

    @the Q:

    The party is now very Republican is what I meant as a result of the DLC influence.

    That only approaches truth if you flatten all comparison between the parties to a subset of economic issues and pretend time stopped in the 1990s.

  28. Matt says:

    @the Q: NAFTA absolutely decimated my home town.

  29. Lounsbury says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    No operational treaty can be written on a napkin, that is mere childish ignorance of someone who clearly has little real exposure to such things.

  30. Thomas Luedeke says:

    Is the fact that Hillary is a compulsive liar who will say anything to get the Presidency supposed to be front-page news?