Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she now opposes the proposed Pacific Rim trade deal in her biggest break yet from President Obama, a move her critics called another policy shift aimed at winning over liberal Democrats.
“I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said in an interview on PBS’s News Hour.
“I have said from the very beginning that we have to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security, and I still believe that is the high bar we have to meet,” she said. Clinton said she doesn’t believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations “is going to meet the high bar I have set.”
The agreement, which Obama hopes to make one of the defining legacies of his presidency, is opposed by labor unions. White House officials, speaking on condition they not be named, said Clinton’s aides alerted them to her opposition before she went public.
Clinton’s move is a reversal from her support for the deal as Obama’s first secretary of State and is the latest step she has taken to appeal to the party’s left ahead of the first Democratic debate Oct. 13 in Las Vegas. Her remarks come as Vice President Biden weighs entering the contest.
Biden’s office quickly issued a one-sentence statement as news of Clinton’s opposition spread through Washington. “The vice president supports the TPP agreement and will help pass it on the Hill,” it read.
In announcing the deal this week, Obama said the agreement will eliminate or reduce foreign tariffs on each nation’s products, easing trade in a zone that stretches from Canada to Chile to Australia and Japan.
For the United States, it means the elimination of what amounts to foreign taxes on about 18,000 U.S. products.
“So we are knocking down barriers that are currently preventing American businesses from selling in these countries and are preventing American workers from benefiting from those sales to the fastest-growing, most dynamic region in the world.” Obama said Tuesday.
Clinton backed the deal, known as TPP, when she served in the Obama administration. “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field,” Clinton said during a visit to Australia in 2012.
Her reversal is part of a series of recent lurches to the left on policy that she’s made in the past couple of weeks.
On Sept. 22, she came out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration is weighing. Last weekend, she gave her strongest speech yet in support of gay rights, including calling for a series of specific protections for transgender individuals. Monday, she unveiled a gun control plan that would go after firearms manufacturers and pledged to expand background checks by executive order if Congress wouldn’t act.
Her critics immediately seized on the move as politically calculated.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement, “Clinton’s painful waffling on TPP has been a case study in political expediency and is precisely why an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t trust her.”
Jeff Bechdel, a spokesman for American Rising PAC, a group opposed to Clinton’s candidacy, said her “ability to shift positions based on political survival is both astonishing and deeply disturbing.” He said the group tallied 45 instances of Clinton pushing the trade deal.
Liberals hailed her decision and urged Democrats on Capitol Hill to join her in bucking the president. “If Hillary Clinton, who worked on the Trans-Pacific Partnership as secretary of State, can change her mind about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so can the small number of Democrats in Congress who have previously voiced their support,” said Murshed Zaheed, deputy political director of CREDO, one of the groups working to kill the pact.
Other factions of the Democratic Party support the agreement. Jon Cowan, president of the Third Way, a think-tank for centrist Democrats, said he was “disappointed.”
“Secretary Clinton has pledged to run a campaign to do one thing above all: restore middle-class prosperity,” he said in a statement. “There is no path to middle-class prosperity without opening the doors to the vast Asian market.”
The text of the agreement has not been made public.
Clinton said she objected to two specific areas of the proposed deal and cited the need for better protections against currency manipulation by foreign governments and greater safeguards for patients. Critics of the pact have warned it includes provisions that it would make it harder for cheaper generic drugs to compete with brand-name pharmaceuticals.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, some of her fellow Democrats sought to criticize Clinton for the North American Free Trade Agreement her husband signed into law in 1993 over the strong objection of organized labor.
“Too often over the years, we haven’t gotten the balance right on trade,” Clinton said in a statement Wednesday, explaining her new stance. “We’ve seen that even a strong deal can fall short on delivering the promised benefits. So I don’t believe we can afford to keep giving new agreements the benefit of the doubt.”
Trying for the money and votes of the labor groups who have not committed yet. Typical election time whoring themselves out…….