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Clinton Breaks With Obama To Oppose Asia Trade Deal

After months of not committing to a position on President Obama's proposed Asia trade deal, Hillary Clinton came out against it Wednesday.

"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, and I still believe that's the high bar we have to meet," the Democratic presidential candidate told Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour.

Saying she is worried about currency manipulation not being included in the agreement along with lack of pharmaceutical price protections, Clinton said she opposes the current Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"What I know of it," Clinton said, "as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it."

It's a significant break for Clinton, who once championed the deal as secretary of state. Clinton later released a statement reiterating her opposition:

"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."

In her post-administration book Hard Choices, she called the agreement an important tool for engaging with Vietnam and for protecting higher standards for American businesses and workers.

She did, however, say she was reserving judgment and questioned an enforcement process called the investor-state dispute settlement. It lets companies doing international business go before an international panel of arbitrators, rather than a country's own justice system.

Clinton's TPP opposition puts her in line with labor groups and progressives — such as her chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — who have come out against the deal. Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993.

This is the second major policy shift for Clinton in recent weeks. Late last month, she announced her opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which the Obama administration is still contemplating. In both instances, Clinton took much longer to reach decisions than her Democratic rivals.

TPP still faces hurdles in Congress, though the president now has fast-track authority on the deal — only a simple majority in the Senate is needed for its approval. But with many progressive Democrats opposing it, and even some conservative lawmakers skeptical of it, it is far from a done deal.

The TPP is the largest regional trade agreement in history. The U.S., Japan and 10 other nations finished crafting a deal Monday that cuts trade barriers, sets labor and environmental standards and protects multinational corporations' intellectual property.

But the accord still faces a battle in Congress, which has 90 days to review the agreement before voting on it. The deal faces a lower legislative hurdle than most proposals in Congress.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politicsand is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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