Hillary Clinton’s pollster admitted last October that her new conditional opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is driven by poll numbers, not by her personal convictions.
“I accept the positon [sic] we’re taking but she has generally been more pro-trade than anti and we get we need politically [sic] by opposing this” TPP deal, pollster Joel Benenson wrote Oct. 6.
Benenson’s email was intended to change the draft of a new TPP policy statement being prepared by Clinton’s aides, including chief foreign policy aide Jake Sullivan.
Benenson called for the campaign to argue that free trade can help America. “While we’re opposing this [TPP deal], don’t we want to say something generally about ensuring that American manufacturers can compete around the world and sell their products in more markets,” he wrote.
He also asked that the planned statement mention a Clinton policy goal of using free-trade deals to promote environmentalist policies. “Hate to be picky but in second graph you don’t mention environmental protections which was one of her 3 criteria I believe. We can’t try to retrofit the criteria for this statement. We have to stick with what she laid out in June.”
Sullivan rejected Benenson’s recommendation half an hour later. “Enviro was not a test.”
Benenson folded. “OK> Thought it was.”
Here’s the draft statement, according to the Benenson email. Dan Schwerin runs Clinton’s speechwriting office.
Thanks to all for the feedback. This is indeed a hard balance to strike, since we don’t want to invite mockery for being too enthusiastically opposed to a deal she once championed, or over-claiming how bad it is, since it’s a very close call on the merits. Below and attached is a revised draft:
Statement on TPP
As Secretary of State, I called for a strong, fair, and balanced trans-Pacific trade agreement as part of a broader strategy to reassert American leadership in Asia and a robust economic agenda at home to strengthen our ability to compete successfully with anyone in the world. I salute President Obama and his team for working incredibly hard in pursuit of that kind of deal. Based on what I have seen so far, however, the final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) does not do meet the high bar by which we should judge any new trade agreement – and I cannot support it.
As I have said many times, we need to be sure that any new trade agreement will create good American jobs, raise wages, and advance our national security. The goal is greater prosperity for American families, not trade for trade’s sake. That is why, as a Senator, I voted against agreements – like the Central American Free Trade Agreement — that I didn’t think measured up.
The Obama administration deserves credit for securing improvements on a range of key issues in TPP, but there are significant flaws that remain unresolved and tip the balance against this agreement. I believe it will do more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years while corporate profits have reached near-record highs. It’s a close call, but this is the wrong agreement at the wrong time.
We still need to do more to stop currency manipulation, which costs American jobs and puts our businesses at a disadvantage. We can’t allow other countries to play by their own rules or exploit American consumers – something we’ve seen too often over the past 15 years. We also need to get tougher on unfair subsidies, loopholes, and other underhanded trading practices. Some progress has been made in this agreement to better protect workers and the environment, but we need to go further, especially when it comes to clear, enforceable assurances that countries will meet their labor obligations under this deal. And, as I wrote in my book Hard Choices, I remain deeply concerned about a process for settling trade disputes that, despite new improvements, still favors powerful corporations at the expense of everyone else. As President, I will pursue a comprehensive approach to trade that addresses these challenges and prioritizes the needs of American workers and families.
First, I will fight to improve our country’s economic competitiveness based on strong growth, fair growth, and long-term growth. That’s how we’ll make trade work more for us rather than against us. We need to close tax loopholes that reward corporations for shipping jobs overseas and instead create more good-paying jobs at home and invest in the sources of American strength, from infrastructure to innovation to clean energy. Most of all, we have to invest in our people, so every American can get the skills and training they need to compete in the global economy.
Second, I will strengthen enforcement of the trade agreements we already have and hold China and others accountable for their unfair trading practices.
Third, I still believe a strong and fair trans-Pacific trade agreement is both possible and necessary, so I will build on the Obama administration’s valuable work and negotiate a deal that meets our tests and delivers for everyday Americans.
Fourth, I will bring more transparency and inclusiveness to trade negotiations, including making sure that workers, labor unions, NGOs, and small businesses are well-represented at every stage. Just as we demand more open and fair markets, we should also demand more open and fair negotiations.
I will also continue to reassert American leadership in Asia, where so much of the future of the 21st century will be written. Our strategic position in the region, the security of allies like Japan and South Korea, and our ability to push China to act responsibly all depend on a strong American leadership.
As President, I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done – fighting for families, fighting for fairness, fighting for you.
Here’s the final statement, which was posted Oct. 7 on Clinton’s website, as “Hillary Clinton Statement on Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
“I’m continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what’s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we’re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers. But based on what I know so far, I can’t support this agreement.
“As I have said many times, we need to be sure that new trade deals meet clear tests: They have to create good American jobs, raise wages, and advance our national security. The bar has to be set very high for two reasons.
“First, too often over the years we haven’t gotten the balance right on trade. We’ve seen that even a strong deal can fall short on delivering the promised benefits. So I don’t believe we can afford to keep giving new agreements the benefit of the doubt. The risks are too high that, despite our best efforts, they will end up doing more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years.
“Second, we can’t look at this in a vacuum. Years of Republican obstruction at home have weakened U.S. competitiveness and made it harder for Americans who lose jobs and pay because of trade to get back on their feet. Republicans have blocked the investments that we need and that President Obama has proposed in infrastructure, education, clean energy, and innovation. They’ve refused to raise the minimum wage or defend workers’ rights or adequately fund job training.
“As a result, America is less competitive than we should be. Workers have fewer protections, the potential positive effects of trade are diminished, and the negative effects are exacerbated. We’re going into this with one arm tied behind our backs.
“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. 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.”
The statement, although couched as opposition to the TPP, still include her declaration of support for a modified TPP deal, saying “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.”