Presidential politics and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal
By Evan Lips | August 1, 2016, 17:43 EDT
WASHINGTON — Despite two weeks’ worth of heated political conventions and concerted efforts on both sides to denounce the respective platforms pushed by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the two political combatants appear to share at least one issue in common: an opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Convincing voters of said position could prove to be more difficult for Clinton, however: in November 2012 it was the former secretary of state who described the deal as “the gold standard in trade agreements.”
The trade deal involving the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, strongly backed by President Barack Obama, must still win approval from Congress to go into effect.
Obama’s White House claims the deal “levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products.”
Opponents counter that ratification would result in more American jobs being outsourced offshore, plummeting labor wages and an increase in shady imported goods, including potentially unsafe food.
Others compare the deal to the single market that exists inside the European Union.
Clinton’s about-face on the issue can largely be traced back to her fierce primary battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist Democrat. During her lengthy nomination acceptance speech last Thursday, Clinton barely touched on the subject of international trade, electing only to say that “if you believe that we should say ‘no’ to unfair trade deals, that we should stand up to China, that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers — join us.”
Yet comments from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe last Tuesday, a staunch Clinton Democrat, created a brief brushfire for Clinton handlers — it was McAuliffe who told Politico that Clinton “understands” the risks of not finalizing the trade deal.
Asked directly if he thought Clinton would change her mind, McAuliffe was unequivocal.
“Yes. Listen, she was in support of it. There were specific things in it she wants fixed.”
McAuliffe’s remarks drew a sharp denial from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta:
Love Gov. McAuliffe, but he got this one flat wrong. Hillary opposes TPP BEFORE and AFTER the election. Period. Full stop.
— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 27, 2016
Clinton, however, has not uttered a word of her own yet and has not held a single press conference in 2016. The exact tally as of Monday sits at 240 days and counting. Comments by her campaign handlers indicate she has no plans to hold a press conference anytime soon:
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 28, 2016
Meanwhile, a scouring of Clinton’s oft-used Twitter account shows that the only time she has come close to addressing the trade deal was when she retweeted one of her policy advisor’s posts:
#DemPlatform has progressive principles & high standards on trade; reflects fact many Dems believe TPP doesn’t meet bar—HRC is one of them.
— Maya Harris (@mayaharris_) June 26, 2016
Her Republican opponent has not shied away from voicing his views on the deal. Trump has vowed to “rip up” the TPP and other trade deals he claims have hurt Americans.
Trump made it clear early in his campaign that he’s no fan of the deal:
The incompetence of our current administration is beyond comprehension. TPP is a terrible deal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2015
More recently, Trump has taken to Twitter to rail against Clinton’s apparent efforts to court Sanders voters:
Hillary can never win over Bernie supporters. Her foreign wars,
NAFTA/TPP support & Wall Street ties are driving away millions of votes.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2016
As for Sanders, he used his speaking appearance at last week’s convention as one last opportunity to slam the deal. In his remarks, Sanders ripped the deal as a “job-killer.”
Clinton’s campaign may claim that their candidate is against the TPP, but on the convention floor, Sanders’s delegates have claimed otherwise.
Frank Klein, a Sanders delegate from Arkansas, claims DNC officials stripped him of his credentials after he hoisted his “No TPP” during the third day of the event.
— Ginny Monk (@GinnyMonk) July 29, 2016