The Cable

Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against Pacific Trade Pact

After months of campaign hedging, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday announced her opposition to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord. It was a break from one of President Barack Obama’s signature economic achievements — and one that she personally championed for years as secretary of state.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

After months of campaign hedging, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday announced her opposition to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade accord. It was a break from one of President Barack Obama’s signature economic achievements — and one that she personally championed for years as secretary of state.

Clinton told PBS’s NewsHour that she would not support the 12-nation TPP based on her current understanding of the 30-chapter text of the deal, which U.S. officials spent years negotiating. The agreement, which must be approved by Congress, was reached Monday.

“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” she said Wednesday.

The Democratic front-runner urged Obama to heed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s calls to renegotiate better protections for U.S. workers. If that doesn’t happen, she said, “there should be no deal.”

“I’m worried about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement,” she said. “I’m worried the pharmaceutical companies may have gotten more benefits — and patients and consumers fewer. I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”

The pact, which is opposed by labor unions but supported by a broad array of economists and diplomats, has become a target of Clinton’s rival in the presidential primary race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It’s also being hammered by Democratic progressives, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who say the deal could take away U.S. manufacturing jobs.

In opposing the deal, the Clinton campaign, which has been alarmed by Sanders’s unexpectedly strong polling in key states, will placate an important power base of the Democratic Party: labor unions.

But her previous remarks in support of the deal may be difficult for her to shake.

“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 2012 speech. “And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”

Her remarks also mark the second time in a week that Clinton has sharply broken with the Obama administration on the campaign trail even as it tries to sell the trade deal to an increasingly skeptical Congress. On Oct. 1, Clinton called for the creation of a no-fly zone inside Syria after Russian jets began bombing opposition targets.

“I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air, to try to provide some way to take stock of what’s happening, to try to stem the flow of refugees,” Clinton told a reporter after a campaign event.

The White House has repeatedly pushed back against a no-fly zone, fearing it would drag the United States deeper into a protracted military conflict. On Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said a no-fly zone would take aviation resources away from the fight against the Islamic State, require ground troops to protect civilians, and require a major U.S. escalation in the conflict.

“Our Defense Department has previously noted the existence of an advanced air-defense system inside of Syria,” Earnest said. “And establishing a no-fly zone anywhere in that country likely means that you’d have to reckon with that advanced air-defense system.”

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