By Robert A. Vella
Democratic Party presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton wants Americans to believe that she has seen-the-light on free trade agreements. Once a supporter of these secret international trade deals, such as President Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton now says she either opposes them outright or would hold any new ones to a higher standard.
From the Campaign for America’s Future – Clinton Commits: No TPP, Fundamentally Rethink Trade Policies:
As reported in The Hill, in “Clinton opposes TPP vote in the lame-duck session,” Clinton replied to a questionnaire from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which consists of more than 25 labor, environmental and human rights organizations. When asked, “If elected President, would you oppose holding a vote on the TPP during the ‘lame duck’ session before you take office?” she replied, “I have said I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”
There has been concern that TPP will come up for a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, and before the next Congress is sworn in. This special session enables votes with little accountability to the public. Members who have been voted out can vote in ways that help them get lobbying jobs and members who were re-elected with corporate money can reward their donors.
Dave Johnson’s editorial continued with concerns over a lame-duck vote on the TPP:
Clinton’s statement helps, but there are still concerns about the TPP being pushed through after the election, and the administration and Republican leaders in Congress are working on this. The Washington Post again:
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that administration officials are in contact with Republican leaders in Congress over the timing of a potential vote.
“The political calculation I would acknowledge is complicated. It doesn’t fall cleanly along party lines,” Earnest said. “So we’re going to work in bipartisan fashion to develop a strategy that will lead to success.”
Considering that the Obama Administration and Republican leaders in Congress seem determined to approve the TPP regardless of public opinion and the outcome of the 2016 election, it’s hard to see how Clinton’s statement helps anything other than her own chances of becoming president. Both of her remaining campaign opponents, populists Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, vehemently oppose these kinds of free trade agreements generally because such deals have detrimentally impacted the middle class (e.g. NAFTA, CAFTA).
Johnson further examined Hillary’s new trade positions:
In her most recent statement, Clinton not only committed to opposing TPP after the election but gave a very strong statement about our trade agreements in general, saying, “I’m not interested in tinkering around the margins of our trade policy. I think we need a fundamental rethink of how we approach trade deals going forward.” From the questionnaire:
Across all of our policies, American workers and American jobs have to come first. And one area where we’ve gotten this balance wrong over the years is trade. Looking back over the past decades, as globalization picked up steam, there’s no doubt that the benefits of trade have not been as widely enjoyed as many predicted. Corporations may have won, but many workers lost. They lost their jobs, and they lost their sense of purpose. Cheaper goods are no substitute for that. So America has to do better.
I’ve laid out a three – part test for any trade agreement to earn my support: it must (1) create American jobs, (2) raise wages, and (3) improve our national security. My approach to trade would be to establish and enforce fair rules so that our workers compete on a level playing field and countries don’t race to the bottom on labor, the environment, and so much else. And we can bring others along in having higher labor, environmental, and other standards.
Let’s scrutinize Clinton’s three points more closely:
- 1) Create American jobs. Since all free trade agreements create at least some domestic jobs, this statement is virtually meaningless. Had she said “create more jobs for Americans, which they would be hired for, than are lost,” then her statement would carry much more weight.
- 2) Raise wages. Again, there’s not much substance here. If American corporate executives make a lot more money from free trade at the expense of everyone else, then the average wage might indeed rise; but, what’s more relevant is the median wage of ordinary workers which would not rise and have not risen over the past two decades or so.
- 3) Improve our national security. Now we come to the very heart of the matter. Free trade proposals have always been motivated more by geopolitical concerns than by economic concerns. The TPP is an agreement between 12 Pacific rim nations designed to counter the rising influence of China (and to a lesser extent, Russia). By bringing the developing countries of the western Pacific region under the sphere of western capitalism, American hegemony is fortified. Unfortunately, this means having to sacrifice the prosperity of a great many American workers. This last point by Clinton is incredibly revealing.
What Hillary failed to mention is her position on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement currently being negotiated between the U.S. and Europe. It is very similar to the TPP and poses an existential threat to both the practice of democracy and national sovereignty as U.S. leaders continue to push the world towards globalism. Clinton, despite her latest rhetoric to the contrary, is certainly allied with that effort.