An email published by WikiLeaks from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign shows staff carefully tailored her remarks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and fast-track negotiating authority for the trade deal so she could eventually support them if elected president.
The email comes from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s account, which he says was hacked.
In March 2015, before she officially launched her campaign, Dan Schwerin, who is a director of speechwriting, sent out a draft letter of planned remarks on trade.
“The idea here is to use this to lay out her thinking on TPA & TPP ahead of action on the Hill and a joint letter by all the former secretaries of state and defense,” Schwerin stated. “This draft assumes that she’s ultimately going to support both TPA and TPP.”
“It focuses on what needs to happen to produce a positive result with TPP, and casts support for TPA [fast-track] as one of those steps. It also says that we should walk away if the final agreement doesn’t meet the test of creating more jobs than it displaces, helping the middle class, and strengthening our national security,” Schwerin added.
Schwerin maintained the remarks spoke directly to “prominent concerns” of labor and Democrats on Capitol Hill, including concerns expressed by Senator Elizabeth Warren.
When the Democratic platform committee met in June, one of the major struggles involved the TPP. Clinton Democrats led the charge to prevent opposition to the TPP from appearing in the platform. This greatly upset Sanders Democrats, such as Rep. Keith Ellison, who believed the Democratic Party needed to stand against bringing the TPP up for a vote in current or future sessions of Congress.
Clinton Democrats and the Democratic platform committee chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings, argued the language explicitly opposing TPP would show the party was not united around President Barack Obama.
Environmental activist Bill McKibben plainly insisted, “This is one of the issues on which Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders agreed. It was an important moment in the campaign when Secretary Clinton was willing to say she was against the TPP.”
McKibben added, “It was one of the things that has been held up in her favor by people, and I think that if we do not ratify as part of the platform it will help those many people feel suspicious in ways that people across our political spectrum feel suspicious about political leaders. I think it would be an act of support for the party going forward to agree on this thing that they have actually agreed on.”
It now seems like unity with President Obama was an excuse. Clinton appointees on the committee had to stop Sanders appointees from including TPP opposition in the platform because she planned to embrace the trade agreement as president.
The Clinton campaign wanted her to declare that trade agreements should pass two tests—”protect and create more good jobs at home than it displaces” and “strengthen” American “national security.”
As secretary of state, Clinton pushed the TPP at least 45 times.
Up until June 2015, Clinton dodged questions about her position on the TPP. She finally addressed it during a rally in Iowa, and as reported by NBC News, she now said a trade agreement should pass three criteria: “protect American workers, raise wages and create good jobs at home, and be in our national security interest.”
“In my time, eight years in the Senate, I voted for some trade agreements and I voted against others,” Clinton declared. “I think I have a pretty good idea of what we can do to meet the tests.”
Indeed, that is true. She also has campaigned against certain trade agreements and then privately lobbied members of Congress to support those same agreements—like, for example, the Colombia free trade agreement.
Other emails show Clinton maintaining flexibility on the TPP. The campaign wanted to dodge questions about the TPP and fast-track. By October, the campaign was involved in a tightrope balancing act.
“This is indeed a hard balance to strike, since we don’t want to invite mockery for being too enthusiastically opposed to a deal she once championed, or over-claiming how bad it is, since it’s a very close call on the merits,” Schwerin confessed.
Clinton gave a statement on the TPP that appeared to oppose the free trade agreement. However, on closer look, it left the door wide open for tinkering with the agreement so it passed her tests if possible.
“I still believe a strong and fair Trans-Pacific trade agreement is both possible and necessary, so I will build on the Obama administration’s valuable work and negotiate a deal that meets our tests and delivers for everyday Americans,” she pledged.
Joel Benenson, a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, pointed out in an email there was no mention of “environmental protections.” A staffer, Jake Sullivan, replied, “Enviro was not a test.” Yet, if environmental protections are not one of the tests, that means whatever TPP Clinton supports will likely have provisions that are hugely toxic for the planet, as it currently does now.
To put all this in context, Sanders made it clear during the campaign that it was wrong to support disastrous free trade agreements. He maintained there was not a single trade agreement in recent history that was worth supporting because they have caused millions of jobs to move out of the United States.
There is no sign that Clinton plans to take a markedly different approach to the TPP and fast-track if she is president. However, as a result of pure political calculations, she engages in mass deception to make voters think she has more concern about free trade agreements than she really does because she believes she must do so to get elected president.