Despite outlining key principles for global trade agreements in her speech Monday laying out her economic agenda, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination failed to lend clear support for the 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal that her former boss, President Obama, has made a cornerstone of his administration.
In addition to trade, Clinton said in her speech at The New School in New York that her agenda will include proposals on raising the minimum wage, expanding pay equality for women, expanding overtime pay for more workers, helping small businesses and entrepreneurs, immigration reform and reining in “excessive risks” on Wall Street.
Global trade is a critical issue in Washington that has splintered the Democratic Party in the past several months, and is expected to play a key role in the presidential debates.
Last month, Democrats suffered a divisive and bruising battle over Trade Promotion Authority, a key component to advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would encompass 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. After House Democrats nearly derailed Obama’s trade agenda, the White House and Republican leaders scrambled to save TPA and the trade agenda and ultimately succeeded in getting it across the finish line.
Democrats are divided over TPP, with opponents contending such international trade deals cost American workers their jobs.
Clinton has been criticized by members of her own party for not taking a strong position on TPP, which is said to be in the final stages of negotiation. Trade ministers from the 12 nations — including the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Singapore — are meeting in Maui at the end of the month in the hopes of wrapping up a final deal.
On Monday, Clinton did not mention TPP in her speech, but did lay out the criteria she wants to see in any trade deal — and her comments seemed to indicate she sided more with the opponents of the deal than the advocates.
“The Greek crisis as well as the Chinese stock market have reminded us that growth here at home and growth an ocean away are linked in a common global economy,” Clinton said. “Trade has been a major driver of the economy over the recent decades but it has also contributed to the hollowing out of our manufacturing base and many hard-working communities. We do need to set a high bar for trade agreements. We should support them if they create jobs, raise wages and advance our national security and we should be prepared to walk away if they don’t.”
Clinton, who is courting unions that vehemently oppose TPP in her bid for the presidency, also focused on the downsides of trade, alluding to outsourcing that has impacted manufacturing communities in the U.S. and led to job losses for several decades.
“Advances in technology and expanding global trade have created whole new areas of commercial activity and opened new markets for our exports but too often they are also polarizing our economy, benefiting high-skilled workers but displacing or downgrading blue-collar and other midlevel jobs that used to provide solid incomes for millions of Americans.”
She said her agenda is focused on raising income levels for workers and is centered around the principles of “strong growth, fair growth and long-term growth.”
“The defining economic challenge of our time is clear,” Clinton said. “We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans, so they can afford a middle-class life. We must drive strong and steady income growth that lifts up families and lifts up our country. And that will be my mission from the first day I’m president to the last.”