Reuters — U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she does not support the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), rejecting a central tenet of President Barack Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia.
Clinton said during a campaign swing in Iowa that she is worried about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement and that “pharmaceutical companies may have gotten more benefits and patients fewer.”
“As of today, I am not in favour of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said in an interview with the public broadcasting program Newshour, filmed during a stop at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”
The TPP deal, reached Monday after marathon talks between the U.S., Canada and 10 Pacific Rim nations, aims to liberalize commerce in 40 per cent of the world’s economy and would be a legacy-defining victory for Obama.
Clinton, who served as Obama’s secretary of state during his first term, has been distancing herself from his administration as she moves to solidify support ahead of the first Democratic debate next week.
Her once-commanding lead in polls of Democratic voters has diminished amid a lingering controversy about her use of a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state, giving rise to speculation that Vice-President Joe Biden could enter the race.
Many Democrats, including labour groups whose support Clinton is seeking, fear the pact will cost manufacturing jobs and weaken environmental laws.
The TPP deal must be approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress. It already faces skepticism from lawmakers.
Clinton was generally supportive of the developing trade pact while secretary of state and spoke highly of the agreement’s promise on several occasions.
“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,” Clinton said in the interview.
“I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for me, it really comes down to those three things,” she said of her opposition.
In other recent moves distancing herself from the Obama administration, Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, backed a no-fly zone over Syria and offered plans to expand Obamacare, the president’s signature healthcare reform.
Two other Democratic contenders for the 2016 presidential election were quick to note her shifting stance on the TPP.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton’s leading Democratic rival, who has opposed the TPP deal and warned it would eliminate jobs and hurt consumers, said, “I’ll let the American people determine who has credibility.”
Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland and a longstanding critic of TPP, said in a statement: “Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this, but I didn’t have one opinion eight months ago and switch that opinion on the eve of debates.”
A White House official said Clinton gave the administration a heads-up about her position before the interview.
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist who advised Bill Clinton’s second presidential campaign, said Clinton’s comments will make it harder to attack her from the left and may endear her to labour unions.
“It allows her to cover several bases at once,” he said, noting her criticism of the provisions on pharmaceuticals. “She looks like the friend of the patient, she looks like the friend of the doctor and she looks like the friend of the unions all at the same time.”
— Amanda Becker and Jonathan Allen are Reuters correspondents based in Washington, D.C. and New York City respectively. Additional reporting for Reuters by Timothy Ahmann and Jeff Mason; writing by John Whitesides.