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By Chris Opfer
July 25 — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has expressed opposition to the pending Pacific Rim trade deal, a position that’s likely to further endear Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick to labor groups.
Kaine voted last year to renew President Barack Obama’s authority to fast-track trade agreements with limited congressional oversight. A spokeswoman for Kaine told Bloomberg BNA July 25 that he has since concluded that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama is pushing Congress to approve before he leaves office, is a bad deal.
“I can confirm that in discussions with Secretary Clinton, Kaine shared his longstanding concerns (particularly the investor state dispute settlement provisions) and that he had also reached the conclusion that TPP does not meet his tests for a good deal,” Amy Dudley, Kaine's communications director, said via e-mail.
The trade debate has divided Democrats, with the Obama administration urging Congress to take up a measure to approve the deal before the end of the year, while labor groups and a varied array of lawmakers are concerned that the deal will ship jobs overseas to partner countries with inadequate worker protections.
Clinton has criticized the 12-nation trade agreement, but skeptics fear she could be leaving open the opportunity to push it through with a little tweaking. The draft platform that the Democratic Party is expected to approve at its convention beginning July 25 raises concerns about labor and other protections in trade deals without specifically calling for the TPP to be abandoned.
A number of labor unions quickly hailed Clinton's selection of Kaine. United Food and Commercial Workers President Marc Perrone called the move the “right choice to help build a better America and fight for the issues that matter to our union family.”
“Again and again, Senator Kaine has supported hard-working families and worked to make their lives better,” Perrone said in a statement issued July 22.
Kaine has a solid 96 percent career voting record on issues deemed significant by the AFL-CIO. He has a 52 percent lifetime score from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Kaine has emphasized technical career training during his first term in the Senate, working to include technical education courses as core curriculum in last year’s education bill.
As governor of Virginia, he signed an executive order banning discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, by public employers in the state.
Kaine's TPP opposition puts him at odds with Obama on the issue. Still, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters July 25 that the president “is quite enthusiastic” about Clinton's decision to tap Kaine as her running mate.
“I'll let Senator Kaine discuss his position on the Trans Pacific Partnership,” Earnest said. “Obviously, President Obama and our administration believes that we have a very strong case to make about how the American people and our economy would benefit from a trade agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that raises environmental standards, that raises labor standards, that makes them enforceable, that protects intellectual property that's developed here in the United States.”
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