Ag Policy Blog

Clinton Campaign Had Angst Over Her Stance on TPP

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The WikiLeaks release of emails from John Podesta, the national chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign, shows Clinton walked a fine line in 2015 over opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership was formally agreed to on Oct. 4, 2015, when the 12 trade ministers of the countries involved in the trade pact announced they had read a conclusion in the negotiations.

Most agricultural groups back the TPP, but the conflict over the election and trade has made it increasingly difficult to see how Congress can find the votes to back the trade deal.

Within the Clinton campaign, there was a lot of angst about when and how she should formally come out against the trade deal.

On Oct 6, 2015, Nikki Budzinski, labor outreach director for the Clinton campaign, sent an email to Podesta and another campaign director about TPP and opposition rollout. Budzinski, a former union campaign staffer, was pleased Clinton "has gotten to the oppose positon, this will be very helpful with mobilization on the ground and support within labor during and after this primary."

But Budzinski and other staffers wanted to wait until the full TPP document was released in November 2015 before Clinton announce her stance. Thus, it would make it appear Clinton had reviewed the trade agreement before opposing it (though she obviously had not). The concern was that if she came out publicly against TPP before the language came out, she would get questioned about what made her change her stance (which happened anyway).

Budzinski then pushed for a strong letter in support of Clinton's stance from the AFL-CIO.

Podesta responded questioning a lag time. "We can't survive hemming and hawking for 3 weeks."

It was concluded that Clinton could not wait to announce her opposition to TPP. The next day, Oct. 7, 2015, the campaign began circulating a draft TPP statement and sought clearance of changes from various levels of the campaign staff.

"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 TPP has met it."

The importance of sticking with unions was considered critical for Clinton in the early primaries. In April 2015, people involved in the campaign stressed that being on the right side of labor was more important than backing President Obama's stance or Clinton being seen as reversing her position on TPP.

"Getting on the wrong side of Labor on the only issue they care about has ramifications on the ground in these early states," whore John Anzalone, a pollster working for Clinton.

That email came as negotiations were heating up on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation to actually close the deal on the trade pact. Clinton's team worked on a variety of statements emphasizing that it does not matter as much what is in the legislation, but what is in the final trade deal.

"Hillary looks forward to studying the details of this new proposal and seeing what emerges from the legislative process. But procedural questions are ultimately less important than what’s in the final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement now being negotiated. Hillary believes that any new trade deal has to pass two tests: First, does it protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home than it displaces? Second, does it also strengthen our national security? If TPP falls short of these tests, we should be willing to walk away. The goal is greater

prosperity and security for American families, not trade for trade’s sake. So she will be watching these negotiations closely to see if the final agreement meets this high bar."

In June 2015, the campaign was trying to work on a "clarifying statement regarding the vote on Trade Promotion Authority vote. The emails highlight great spin to ensure Clinton could not be boxed in. As Brian Fallon of the Clinton campaign wrote to Podesta, "We are working on a clarifying statement that is consistent with what she said but prevents people from interpreting it as more than what she said."

Clinton had wanted to make sure to stress that if she were in the Senate, she would not have voted for the Trade Promotion Authority unless it came with a Trade Adjustment Assistance, which is essentially training and other funding for people who would lose jobs under a trade deal.

The Obama administration had made it clear the White House would not accept Trade Promotion Authority without the accompanying Trade Adjustment Assistance. The Clinton team finally came up with a statement.

"Consistent with her strong support for worker protections, Hillary Clinton said she of course couldn't consider voting for any TPA without confidence that TAA would be extended. That said, her focus remains on the substance of the TPP agreement."

About that same time in June 2015, the Clinton campaign struggled over the fact that former President Bill Clinton was on "The Daily Show" touting free trade. The campaign feared the Wall Street Journal and others portraying it as "the Clintons are deliberately trying to have it both ways on trade."

As Republican nominee Donald Trump and many others have pointed out, Clinton supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership in November 2012 as secretary of state and did declare is as "gold standard in trade." In Australia, Clinton gave a speech on U.S-Australian relations in which she touched on TPP.

Clinton stated, "So it's fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment."…

Ag Policy Forum

On Wednesday morning, at 7 a.m. Central, the Farm Foundation will host a forum on the food and ag platforms of the two major presidential candidates. Representing Hillary Clinton will be former Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. Representing Donald Trump will be his ag advisor Charles Herbster and campaign co-chair Sam Clovis. The event will be broadcast live for those who cannot attend in person. You can register at the link below.…

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Jay Mcginnis
10/25/2016 | 4:42 AM CDT
Clark, you are making too much sense, farming has been much better then it has in the past 8 years but farmers want to vote for the loud guy in the red cap and not give Obama any credit for the past 8 years, ummmmm, any ideas why? Maybe it has something to do with the flags they fly and paste on their pick ups?
Clark Reimer
10/18/2016 | 7:50 AM CDT
As an independent voter I do not like the fact that just about everything you buy is made in China and is of poor quality. As a grain farmer I also realize that if a trade war were started with China and they were to reduce the amount of soybeans and distillers grain they buy from the US what affect that would have on corn and soybean prices especially with record or near record production and carryover. China currently buys over 50% of the soybeans we export from the US. Do you remember $5 soybeans and $1.60 corn? I believe that if a company chooses to close plants here in the US and move jobs out of this country they should be taxed on those imports or earnings just as a foreign country's products would be. The president wanted to do this back in 2010 or 2011 but the Republicans in congress refused to go along with this. I now see that Donald Trump wants to do the same thing and it is now the greatest idea to come along since sliced bread. Imagine the amount of jobs that could have been saved and how much faster the recovery from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression would have been if the Republicans in congress would have worked with the president to pass this.
10/17/2016 | 11:36 AM CDT
Ride the barb wire fence long enough, something will eventually get caught when one only slides off.