Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has said she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But she has also said she will not lobby members of Congress to vote against it. Meanwhile, President Obama continues to push for a vote on TPP in the unaccountable “lame duck” session of Congress.
So who could have predicted that Donald Trump would accuse Clinton of not really opposing TPP?
Clinton Needs To Help Kill TPP
President Obama, Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations are engaged in an effort to push TPP through Congress in the “lame duck” session of Congress that will follow the election. In this insult to democracy incumbent representatives and senators who have been ousted (partly because of their pro-TPP positions) can still vote. Others who have been newly elected (partly because of their opposition to TPP) cannot vote. And politicians who were re-elected with corporate/Wall Street money can vote to repay their benefactors.
Meanwhile Clinton has been tepid in her opposition to TPP. She has said she will not lobby members of Congress to vote against the trade agreement. She has not asked President Obama to withdraw TPP so she can renegotiate it. And Clinton allies are fighting against a Democratic platform plank opposing TPP because that would embarrass President Obama.
Earlier this month AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka testified before the Democratic Party’s platform committee on the need for a strong statement against TPP.
“Unless you make a strong statement [about the TPP], the American public is going to be confused by the opposite side who is very sharp and clear on trade,” Trumka said, adding that he thinks Trump doesn’t believe what he’s saying on trade.
“If we simply muddle through the issue we’ll lose votes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan … every state that’s seen a failed trade agreement work to their disadvantage.
“I think we have to be crystal clear and sharp on the issue, otherwise we lose to a Republican Party coming from the left.”
Trump Attacks Clinton On TPP
Trumka said, “We need to be crystal clear and sharp on the issue, otherwise we lose to a Republican Party coming from the left.” Donald Trump on Wednesday did exactly that.
Here are excerpts from Trump’s speech attacking Clinton on TPP:
“[I]t’s not just the political system that’s rigged. It’s the whole economy.
… It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the U.S. with absolutely no consequences for them.
… We got here because we switched from a policy of Americanism – focusing on what’s good for America’s middle class – to a policy of globalism, focusing on how to make money for large corporations who can move their wealth and workers to foreign countries all to the detriment of the American worker and the American economy.
We reward companies for offshoring, and we punish companies for doing business in America and keeping our workers employed.
This is not a rising tide that lifts all boats.
This is a wave of globalization that wipes out our middle class and our jobs.
[…] I have visited the cities and towns across America and seen the devastation caused by the trade policies of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton supported Bill Clinton’s disastrous NAFTA, just like she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization.
We’ve lost nearly one-third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed.
Our trade deficit with China soared 40 percent during Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State — a disgraceful performance for which she should not be congratulated, but rather scorned.
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Then she let China steal hundreds of billions of dollars in our intellectual property – a crime which is continuing to this day.
Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs, and effectively let China completely rebuild itself.
In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!
… Hillary Clinton has also been the biggest promoter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will ship millions more of our jobs overseas – and give up Congressional power to an international foreign commission.
Now, because I have pointed out why it would be such a disastrous deal, she is pretending that she is against it. …
[I]f she is elected president, she will adopt the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we will lose millions of jobs and our economic independence for good. She will do this, just as she has betrayed the American worker on trade at every single stage of her career – and it will be even worse than the Clintons’ NAFTA deal. …
I want trade deals, but they have to be great for the United States and our workers.
We don’t make great deals anymore, but we will once I become president. I promise you that.
Clinton Responds With Pro-Free-Trade Talking Points?
Clinton’s “Correct The Record” super PAC responded to Trump’s speech with a “fact check” that actually repeated pro-TPP and pro-free-trade arguments.
Moody’s report: Donald Trump’s economic proposals “will result in a more isolated U.S. economy,” with reduced cross-border trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment. “Broadly, Mr. Trump’s economic proposals will result in a more isolated U.S. economy. Cross-border trade and immigration will be significantly diminished, and with less trade and immigration, foreign direct investment will also be reduced. While globalization has created winners and losers in the U.S. economy in recent decades, it contributes substantially to the ongoing growth of the U.S. economy. Pulling back from globalization, as Mr. Trump is proposing, will thus diminish the nation’s growth prospects.” [Moody’s Analytics report, 6/20/16]
Moody’s report: Donald Trump’s trade policies could raise overall consumer prices by 3%, reduce American exports, and hurt growth. “On trade, Mr. Trump has said he would use the threat of a 45% tariff on goods from China and 35% on non-oil imports from Mexico as a negotiating tool in seeking better trade and currency terms. Moody’s calculates that tariffs on imports from Mexico and China could increase goods import prices by 15%, raising overall consumer prices by 3%—all before factoring in the costs of retaliation against U.S. exporters. The Moody’s economists warn that those tariffs would raise uncertainty for businesses, reducing American exports while corroding growth. While higher tariffs would quickly lead importers to move production to other countries, this would take time and also raise costs for businesses.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/20/16]
This is how Clinton’s super PAC defends Clinton’s positions? Let’s look at this.
- Clinton’s super PAC says Trump’s policies would reduce cross-border trade. What does this mean? When you close a factory, lay off American workers and move production out of the U.S., then bring the same goods back across the border to sell in the same stores here, this increases “cross-border trade” because now those goods cross a border. Clinton’s super PAC defends her positions by saying this is a good thing?
- Trump decries “a wave of globalization that wipes out our middle class and our jobs.” Clinton’s super PAC responds, “Globalization … contributes substantially to the ongoing growth of the U.S. economy.” Globalization is the word for trade deals that close factories in the US and move them to places where people are paid squat so that executives and Wall Street shareholders can pocket the wage differential. This is how Clinton’s super PAC defends Clinton’s positions?
- Clinton’s super PAC says Donald Trump’s trade policies could raise overall consumer prices and raise costs for businesses. When you move factories out of the US to places where people are paid squat and there are no costs for polluting the planet, the “business costs” are lower and the goods brought back to sell in the same stores might cost a bit less. But American wages are wiped out. (Nike shoes do not cost less; they sell for what Nike can get, not based on whether they are made by people in near-slavery conditions.) This is how Clinton’s super PAC defends Clinton’s positions?
Clinton Must Demand Obama Withdraw TPP
Clinton needs to fix her stance on trade. Her super PAC’s response demonstrates the problem. She says she opposes the TPP; her own super PAC releases a response to Trump’s attack that defends her by talking about how great free trade has been for the country. No wonder no one trusts her when she says she opposes the TPP.
"Clinton must demand that Democrats in Congress vote against TPP, and describe a new trade process that includes labor, environment, consumer, human rights and other stakeholder groups."
This is Clinton’s problem. Voters have caught on to the free trade game and how it has been used to enrich a few at the expense of working people around the world. They despise the free trade deals that have wiped out the middle class, wiped out our manufacturing ecosystem, wiped out wages, wiped out good jobs and wiped out entire regions of the country. They despise the TPP. They will vote against politicians who do not promise to kill the TPP and mean it. But Clinton is surrounded (and funded) by the very people who have gained from this. So Clinton doesn’t look at all like she means it when she says she opposes the TPP and similar trade deals. Her own super PAC certainly didn’t help with this problem.
Clinton must get loud and get serious on trade. She must tell Obama to withdraw TPP, and certainly not to try to push it through in the lame duck session of Congress following the election. The press has not yet noticed this contradiction between Clinton’s stated opposition to TPP and Obama’s push to pass it. Trump bringing it up might force this.
Clinton must demand that Democrats in Congress vote against TPP, and describe a new trade process that includes labor, environment, consumer, human rights and other stakeholder groups. This will blunt Trump’s attacks.
Clinton must ask for a strong anti-TPP and anti-free-trade platform from the coming convention. This will give grass roots activists ammunition to use in supporting “down-ballot” Democrats against Trump attacks.
Trump’s attack was strong, and Clinton has set herself up to be vulnerable to it. It’s time to change that.