Speaking to PBS on Wednesday, presidential contender Hillary Clinton announced her long awaited stance on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership — a massive free trade deal the U.S. just negotiated with 11 other nations. “I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said, noting that the text of the agreement itself, though final, remains secret to the public.
Clinton outlined her concerns about the deal Wednesday in an interview with Judy Woodruff. “I’m worried about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement,” she said. “We’ve lost jobs to the manipulations that countries, particularly in Asia, have engaged in. I’m worried that the pharmaceutical companies that have gotten more benefits and patients and consumers fewer. I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for me, it comes down to those concerns.”
Clinton added that a lot of trade agreements “look great on paper” but don’t end up having the desired result, citing the South Korea free trade agreement enacted under President Obama while she was Secretary of State.
“Looking back on it, it hasn’t had the results we thought it would have in terms of access to the markets, more exports, et cetera,” she said.
Clinton’s announcement came as a shock to many, not only because she support free trade deals like NAFTA as First Lady, but because she repeatedly and forcefully defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership while she was Secretary of State and the deal was still being negotiated.
Though the criticisms she revealed today distance her from the Obama administration — whose Vice President Joe Biden is considering challenging her for the nomination — they put her in line with many of her 2016 opponents across the political spectrum. Progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have blasted the trade deal as a gift to large corporations that will encourage the outsourcing of American jobs to lower wage countries overseas. Sanders has vowed to do all he can to prevent the Senate from ratifying the agreement.
The parts of the deal that have leaked to the public show provisions that would allow corporations to challenge laws in any of the member countries that cut into their profits — from environmental protections to meat labeling — taking the cases before business-friendly international tribunals outside the traditional court system. Progressive lawmakers have also raised concerns about the deal’s impact on climate change, and access to affordable medications in developing countries — which Clinton alluded to Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and other Republicans running for president have raised concerns about the deal’s potential impact on American manufacturing workers, who could see their jobs move to a low-wage TPP member country like Vietnam or Malaysia.