Clinton Won't Support TPP, Campaign Says

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By Len Bracken

July 27 — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton does not support approval of the trans-Pacific trade pact and would not, if elected, renegotiate the agreement, a top campaign official said.

“She is not interested in renegotiating the TPP,” John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, said at a Democratic National Convention press briefing in Philadelphia, stressing the candidate's opposition to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that has been signed but not yet ratified.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a long-time Clinton friend, created a fire storm in an July 26 interview with Politico in saying that Clinton might soften her position on the agreement after the November election. Podesta immediately rebutted the comments on Twitter, saying the governor was, “flat wrong.”

“She is against it before the election and after the election,” Podesta said in the tweet.

McAuliffe aides later walked back his comments, and the governor told union leaders in Philadelphia July 27 that Clinton is against the TPP and is “always gonna stay against TPP,” according to a video clip obtained and posted by NBC.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, in a July 26 statement said the Virginia governor was “absolutely wrong.”

“All of organized labor and all American workers have set a standard, she has embraced it, and she'll stick to it,” Trumka said. The 2016 Democratic Party Platform outlines standards for trade agreements, and a Clinton aide has said the candidate does not believe the TPP lives up to those standards (142 ITD, 7/25/16).

NAFTA Precedent

The issue is highly sensitive because when Clinton served as secretary of state and the deal was being negotiated, she backed the pact. But she began voicing her concerns as a candidate soon after the agreement was reached in October 2015. Democratic opponents of the TPP have told Bloomberg BNA they fear she might again reverse her position as her husband did when he campaigned against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992, only to push its ratification through Congress in 1993.

Podesta's July 27 remarks echoed those he made at a Wall Street Journal lunch the previous day in which he rejected renegotiating the deal and called for a new approach to trade that combines investing in working people along with trade deals. In those remarks he said Clinton's running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), also opposes the TPP. Kaine was one of only 13 Democratic senators to vote for trade promotion authority in 2015.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) July 27 told reporters in Philadelphia that Kaine went through a month-long vetting process and that both he and Clinton would oppose ratification of the TPP during the lame-duck session.

Rearview Mirror

Gene Sperling, a Clinton economic adviser, said July 27 that she is “against TPP in the lame duck,” adding that her focus as president would be on job creation initiatives, such as infrastructure spending and manufacturing.

“I think [TPP] is in the rearview mirror,” he said in a panel discussion hosted by The Atlantic magazine. “I think there is no evidence that any version of TPP is going to be strong for [manufacturing],” he said.

The issue of Chinese excess capacity in steel is harming U.S. job creation and would be a trade priority for Clinton if she is elected, he said.

“You’re going to see some toughness on China,” he said. “It’s going to happen quick because there is going to be the issue of nonmarket economy status and she is going to oppose any sense that that is automatic or that they deserve that.”

China's 2001 accession protocol to the World Trade Organization calls on other member nations to evaluate the status of the Chinese economy after 15 years to see whether it has become a market economy. If so, the members would adjust their trade remedy laws accordingly.

To contact the reporter on this story: Len Bracken in Washington at lbracken@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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