Clinton moves left, opposes Obama's Trans-Pacific trade deal

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE announced her opposition Wednesday to the Pacific Rim trade deal, breaking with President Obama in another move to the left for her presidential campaign.

The front-runner for the Democratic nomination gave Obama a heads-up of her opposition before announcing she’d oppose the Trans-Pacific ­Partnership (TPP) in an interview with PBS “NewsHour” host Judy Woodruff. 

“What I know about it, as of today I’m not in favor of what I’ve learned about it,” Clinton said in the interview. 

ADVERTISEMENT
In a statement, she elaborated, saying that based on what she knew about the TPP, it failed to meet the “high bar” of creating good jobs, raising wages and advancing national security. 

She also sought to explain why she was opposing a trade deal she backed while serving as Obama’s secretary of State.

“I still believe in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was Secretary of State,” Clinton said. 

“I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this process and recognize the strides they made. But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don’t believe this agreement has met it.”

Clinton made her announcement just days after negotiators completed the TPP, which would tie the U.S. economy with those of 11 other countries.

She has come under significant pressure to oppose the deal from fellow White House hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) Former Sanders campaign manager: Don't expect email list to be shared with DNC Adult film star: Trump and Stormy Daniels invited me to 'hang out' MORE (I-Vt.), who is ahead of her in New Hampshire, according to polls.

Unions strongly oppose the TPP, so Clinton’s opposition is likely to earn praise from organized labor — an important Democratic constituency.  

The former secretary of State also has an eye on Vice President Biden, who is mulling over whether to enter the Democratic primary. Biden backs the trade deal. 

The vice president will help win support for the agreement on Capitol Hill, a White House aide said following Clinton’s announcement. If he enters the race, he’ll be the only Democratic candidate backing the TPP. 

Sanders welcomed the news from Clinton, saying in a statement that he hoped her opposition would help kill the deal. 

“I am glad that Secretary Clinton has now come on board,” he said. “I hope that, with her help, with the efforts of virtually every union in the country and with the opposition of many environmental groups, we can defeat this agreement which was largely written by Wall Street and corporate America.”

A White House official said Clinton told Obama in advance of her statement, but wouldn’t get into specifics about the private conversation. 

Clinton didn’t take a clear position earlier this year on the president’s request for Congress to grant him fast-track trade authority, which eased negotiations on the deal and makes it easier for the agreement to move through Congress. 

Her opposition raises new questions about whether the trade deal can survive congressional scrutiny.

Both parties are split on trade, but the deal will need to win much more support from Republicans to be approved by the House and the Senate.

Some Republican presidential candidates have also come out against the deal, raising pressure on GOP lawmakers to oppose it.

With fast-track’s passage, however, it will at least be easier for Obama to get legislation implementing the agreement through the Senate. Opponents will not be able to filibuster the deal.

In her comments to Woodruff, Clinton said she wants a trade agreement that would create jobs, saying she believes “that’s the high bar we have to meet.”

She expressed concern that currency manipulation isn’t part of the agreement and that pharmaceutical companies will get more benefits than consumers under the deal.

“We’ve lost American jobs to the manipulations that countries particularly in Asia have engaged in,” Clinton said.

More broadly, the former first lady said there are still “a lot of unanswered questions” and that sometimes agreements “look great on paper” but are in fact not that great.

Clinton cited the 2011 free-trade deal with South Korea. She said the agreement was improved, with her support, but still hasn’t delivered the promised benefits.

“I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security,” she said.

Republicans were quick to pounce on the reversal by Clinton, saying the move was done to appeal for labor union support. 

“Hillary Clinton’s ability to shift positions based on political survival is both astonishing and deeply disturbing,” said Jeff Bechdel, communications director for America Rising, a Republican super-PAC.

“After 45 separate occurrences in which Clinton pushed for the trade deal, even praising it in her book ‘Hard Choices,’ she now claims she opposes it. This is nothing more than a political calculation made by a politician desperate for a coalition.” 

Some of Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination also pounced.

“Wow! That’s a reversal! I was against the Trans-Pacific Partnership months and months ago,” former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this, but I didn’t have one opinion eight months ago and switch that opinion on the eve of debates.”

The first Democratic presidential debate is set for Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Josh Earnest alluded to the fact that the politics behind the TPP “are tough” for Democratic candidates such as Clinton.

“There is vigorous disagreement inside the Democratic Party about the wisdom of the approach that the president makes,” Earnest said.  

Updated at 8:21 p.m.