August 8, 2016

How Do The Presidential Candidates Feel About The Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Free trade has been a significant point of debate this election year. One reason it has is that Congress may soon consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam). How do the major party presidential candidates and their running mates feel about the TPP? Here’s a quick rundown. 

 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton:

  • As Secretary of State, was heavily involved in the TPP deal-making process referring to it as “the gold standard in trade agreements”;
  • As Democratic nominee, expressed her opposition to the TPP “in its current form” during a Democratic primary debate, saying that the final deal did not meet her standards;
  • Has repeatedly stated that she will continue to oppose the TPP if elected, despite past support for the deal and comments from ally and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe suggesting that Clinton may support a revised version as president; and
  • Has established two benchmarks for support of future trade deals: protection and wage increases for U.S. workers, and strengthening national security.

Republican nominee Donald Trump:

  • Opposes the TPP, calling it a “horrible deal”;
  • Believes the TPP will negatively impact U.S. manufacturing and increase the offshoring of American jobs;
  • Criticized the deal for not including penalties for foreign currency manipulation; and
  • Identifies as a “free-trader” but calls for bilateral trade deals rather than large multilateral pacts.

Though he never took a formal position on the deal before his vice presidential nomination, Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, was one of 13 Senate Democrats who voted for fast track authority for TPP negotiations in 2015. Sen. Kaine also praised the agreement’s “upgrades” on labor, environmental and intellectual property protections while expressing concern over the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision. After Clinton chose him to be her running mate, however, Sen. Kaine expressed opposition to the deal, citing concerns over its affect on wages and national security. 

Trump’s choice for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at one point urged Indiana members of Congress to support the TPP. He also voted in favor of all trade deals that were introduced in Congress during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since joining the Trump ticket, however, Gov. Pence has expressed skepticism of the TPP, comparing the deal’s complexities to those of Obamacare and advocating for bilateral trade deals instead. 

In related news: eight Republican House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him not to press for a vote on TPP during the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections. The president supports the trade deal, as do Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate.