On Monday, Republican presidential nominee businessman Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the first of three presidential debates. The debate was seen by an audience estimated to be over 80 million people.
The substantive focus of the debate became trade deals the US had signed and their effects on the working class of the country, particularly workers in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The states were by no means chosen at random as they represent swing states both candidates need to do well in to win the presidency.
Donald Trump went on the offensive, criticizing former Secretary Clinton for supporting NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump claimed NAFTA was the worst trade in US history and that TPP could end up being just as bad.
Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA and actively took part in lobbying for its passage in Congress. She continued to support it thereafter and seems to have only changed her views in 2008, when she began running for president. Clinton claims she opposed it earlier but video evidence shows otherwise.
An analysis by consumer rights group Public Citizen shows NAFTA cost the US one million net jobs. NAFTA not only hurt US workers, it displaced a million Mexican small farmers which subsequently doubled Mexican immigration into the US as those farmers desperately needed work to support their families.
NAFTA destroyed communities in the US and Mexico to the benefit of the parasitic corporate elite funding Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Trump also attacked Clinton for calling TPP “the gold standard” of trade deals and noted that President Barack Obama was lobbying for TPP as Clinton repeatedly celebrated his support of her candidacy. Clinton said she did not call the deal the gold standard and stonewalled on whether she disagreed with the president on TPP.
In fact, former Secretary Clinton did call TPP “the gold standard” and took an active part in negotiating the deal as secretary of state:
CLINTON: 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.
Though Hillary Clinton now says she opposes TPP, many are skeptical she would not sign it if elected president. Among those who think Clinton is being dishonest is one of her dearest friends and longtime political ally, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe told the press that former Secretary Clinton ultimately favored TPP, saying, “Listen, she was in support of it. There were specific things in it she wants fixed.”
Governor McAuliffe, who served as a character witness for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, later tried to walk back the statement, but it’s no coincidence many of those funding Clinton’s campaign will be the beneficiaries from TPP.
Clinton and her campaign team appear to have calculated that corporate free trade has become so generally unpopular that it makes little sense to try and pivot back from her primary election position. Once elected and needing money for re-election, it would seem Clinton would have little incentive to stick with that position.