Hillary Clinton has a credibility problem when it comes to our country's trade policies and the resulting enormous, humongous trade deficits that measure job loss – especially with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But Clinton has a chance to shore up her credibility with Democratic voters on this issue. It comes as President Obama, Wall Street and the multinational corporations are preparing to grease the skids for pushing the TPP through Congress in the post-election "lame duck" session.
Clinton, Credibility And Free Trade
Following months of demands that she take a position on the trade agreement, Clinton stated during an October PBS Newshour interview (just before the first debate with candidate Bernie Sanders) that TPP could, “… end up doing more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years.”
Unfortunately for Clinton, few believe she means it. The business community, for example, sees Clinton's position as simple posturing to voters for the election, believing she will switch back to supporting the agreement immediately after the election, as Obama did on NAFTA after promising throughout the 2008 campaign to renegotiate the agreement.
Tory Newmyer, in a Fortune story after the Ohio primary, “Hillary Clinton and John Kasich Win Ohio, and So Does Free Trade,“ described Clinton as pro-free trade, writing she really won the Ohio primary because she favors TPP, not because she opposes it,
Buckeye State voters in both parties delivered wins to trade-friendly candidates on Tuesday—and denied them to a pair who staked their claims on pledges to oppose new deals, starting with the Trans Pacific Partnership. That outcome was in doubt after Ohio’s neighbors to the north in Michigan last week voted for reality-show billionaire Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the most aggressive trade foes in the field.
But in Ohio, Hillary Clinton and home-state Gov. John Kasich prevailed.
The business community doesn't believe for a minute that Clinton really opposes TPP.
Working-class voters have a similar problem, solidly identifying Clinton with free-trade positions. Candidate Bernie Sanders has used this perception against her, winning Michigan and Wisconsin and gaining on her in Ohio and other states. These wins were a result of campaigning as a candidate who will restore balance to our country's trade policies, as opposed to Clinton as a candidate favoring agreements that send jobs out of the country and who has even said such offshoring "is probably a plus for the economy in the long run."
President Obama Presents Clinton With An Opportunity To Restore Credibility
President Obama is presenting Clinton with an opportunity to restore her credibility on TPP. Politico's Morning Trade reported on Monday that the Obama administration is ramping up "a process" for "pushing for TPP approval in Congress."
The escalating anti-trade rhetoric emerging from the presidential election isn't striking any fear in the heart of President Barack Obama or decreasing his willingness to send the TPP to Congress for approval, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an interview with Pro Trade's Doug Palmer.
"This president is not intimidated and he's not afraid to act here," she said. "We have a process we have to go through first. We reviewed the process this week, so we could understand all the steps. This president is fully committed to TPP, as is our administration and, frankly, as is the business community."
Pritzker said she met with the CEOs and former CEOs of Caterpillar, Boeing and the Campbell Soup Company in recent days to talk about "the efforts their companies are going to make" as well as the efforts of the Business Roundtable, which Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman chairs. She added that businesses are "raring to go" when it comes to pushing for TPP approval in Congress.
Also in Monday's Morning Trade, another Obama official says "there will be an opportunity to get TPP done this year," likely meaning after the election:
National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients argued forcefully on Friday for Congress to approve TPP. ... "So I am very confident that there will be an opportunity to get TPP done this year, and we've got to do everything we can to get it done because, if we don't, there's no guarantee when we'll have our next shot," he said, arguing the trade deal matters to U.S. workers and businesses. "I can assure you it matters to this president, which is why he will be doing everything he can to get TPP done."
Clinton Should Ask Obama To Withdraw TPP
Reports like this only serve to further undermine Clinton's credibility on TPP. Clinton is seen as the "establishment" candidate, and is described in the media as "hugging the Obama agenda," "bear-hugging Obama," "embracing Obama 'as close as she can'" and other similar descriptions.
Obama's push for TPP therefore harms Clinton as she tries to be seen by voters as the Obama successor. Voters hate the TPP. Having that threat of its passage after the election hanging out there only harms Clinton in the eyes of the electorate. Candidate Clinton has an opportunity to address her TPP credibility problem by asking Obama to withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress, and calling on her supporters and endorsers in Congress to join her in demanding that the agreement be withdrawn.