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Sunday, October 23, 2016

In her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has lately promoted herself as a populist defender of the middle class. To that end, she attempted to distance herself last week from a controversial 12-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would set the rules of commerce for roughly 40 percent of the world’s economy.

As with similar business-backed trade pacts, labor unions, environmental groups and public health organizations are warning that the deal could result in job losses, reduced environmental standards, higher prices for medicine and more power for corporations looking to overturn public interest laws. And so, in her quest for Democratic primary votes, Clinton is suddenly trying to cast herself as a critic of the initiative.

“I did not work on TPP,” she said after a meeting with leaders of labor unions who oppose the pact. “I advocated for a multinational trade agreement that would ‘be the gold standard.’ But that was the responsibility of the United States Trade Representative.”

The trouble, of course, is that Clinton’s declaration does not square with the facts.

CNN has reported that during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton publicly promoted the pact 45 separate times. At a congressional hearing in 2011, Clinton told lawmakers that “with respect to the TPP, although the State Department does not have the lead on this — it is the United States Trade Representative — we work closely with the USTR.” Additionally, secret State Department cables published by the website WikiLeaks show that her agency — including her top aides — were deeply involved in the diplomatic deliberations over the trade deal.

In a series of cables in late 2009 and 2010, State Department officials outlined their extensive discussions about the pact with government officials from New Zealand. At one point, State Department officials in that country requested an additional employee to specifically “allow the Economics Officer to focus on preparations for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.”

Similarly, a September 2009 cable detailed Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, specifically discussing the TPP with Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister. In a November 2009 cable, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo detailed TPP discussions between Japanese government officials and Robert Hormats, a former Goldman Sachs executive who was then serving as Clinton’s undersecretary of state. In a December 2009 cable, State Department officials in Hanoi reported that the U.S. Ambassador “hosted a dinner on December 21 for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement country representatives.” The cable thanked the Clinton-run State Department for providing “regular updates” that “have been key to helping us answer the many TPP-related inquiries we receive.”

Meanwhile, in a January 2010 cable, State Department embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur advised Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis on strategies to negotiate the TPP with the Malaysian government.

The involvement of the Clinton-led State Department in the TPP is hardly surprising: In June, CBS News reported that “a senior administration official told CBS News correspondent Julianna Goldman that Clinton was one of the biggest backers of TPP.” In a Bloomberg News interview that same month, President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice disputed the idea that Clinton was not involved in the TPP.

“She was integrally involved in all of the major initiatives of the first term of the administration,” said Rice, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations when Clinton was Secretary of State. “She was instrumental in formulating and implementing the rebalance to Asia, of which the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a part.”

Considering all the evidence, Clinton nonetheless pretending she had nothing to do with TPP is clearly a strategic calculation: She is betting that few voters will notice the gap between her rhetoric and her own record. It is certainly a cynical tactic. Time will tell if it is a politically shrewd one.

David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books Hostile Takeover, The Uprising, and Back to Our Future. Email him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States, July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

  • Dominick Vila

    Changing our minds is part of growing up and being more aware of facts, but when it comes to politics, especially after a candidate has supported an issue for years, a sudden change in direction can only be interpreted for what it is: politics as usual. Things like this are likely to impact Hillary’s candidacy a lot more than e-mail gate and Benghazi, if nothing else because her supporters expect consistency, transparency, and determination, rather than the usual political vacillations or opportunism that, until now, have been the real of Republican policy making.

    • David

      We have differed in our opinions in the past, but we agree that Hildebeast is “inconsistent” in her approach to this issue.

      • JPHALL

        The name calling was not necessary and cost you all credibility.

    • charleo1

      This, and issues of similar kind, are at the heart of Hillary’s trust problem. To the extent she has one. And not the ones her opponents are alluding to. Her private server, having the last name, “Clinton,” Benghazi, some speaking fees she may have accepted from this group or that. Most of these in all likelihood, being Republican donors as well. That said, in a two person race, the trust factor becomes a bit like the two guys running from the bear. One needs only to have a bit more juice than the other guy to win.

  • itsfun

    Makes one wonder how much money her foundation received after her support for the agreement.

  • Matforce

    What a tangled mess the FTAs have made of the allegience of our legislators. All have had language to elevate global worker’s wages, benefits, safety, and human rights, but none of them have been enforced.
    Each FTA has been emboldened by its predisessor, until now we have the current TPP that grants corporations the legal authority to sue nation’s (like the sovereign USA) for profit losses that stem from said nation’s environmental laws, human rights laws and other “burdensome” regulations…”

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