Which way is the wind blowing today?
In a calculated move to keep the unions on her side, US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday came out against the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
To parapharase Michael Corleone: “It’s the smart move, Hillary was always smarter.” However, in “The Godfather” movie, the smart move ended up backfiring.
With most progressives against a central tenet of President Barack Obama’s pivot toward Asia, Clinton made the move to shore up her support among the Democratic Party’s liberal base, especially union members.
Even though she had supported the trade pact during Obama’s first term, when she served as secretary of state, it was no longer in her best interest. She needed to remove a wedge issue between her and US Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging her for the nomination on her left flank. The two confront each other next week at the first televised debate of Democratic contenders.
And it sets her apart from Vice President Joe Biden, who is also considering running for president. If Biden entered the race, he would have to support the administration’s policies.
The TPP deal between the US and 11 Pacific Rim nations would liberalize commerce in 40% of the world’s economy. Opponents say it would cost manufacturing jobs and weaken environmental laws.
And while it doesn’t help Clinton’s reputation as being untrustworthy, it’s highly credible that the deal she supported and the deal that was approved have significant differences. She said she worried that the agreement didn’t crack down on currency manipulation or protect consumers from excessively high drug prices.
“The bar here is very high and based on what I have seen, I don’t believe the agreement has met it,” Clinton said in a statement. “I don’t believe we can afford to keep giving new agreements the benefit of the doubt. The risks are too high that, despite our best efforts, they will end up doing more harm than good.”
“I am delighted that Secretary Clinton is on board,” Sanders said during an appearance at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, reported Reuters. “To be very frank with you, it would have been more helpful to have her on board a few months ago.”
China is not part of the TPP. And the pact is considered by many to be a response by the US to counteract China’s rising clout in the global economy.
“We can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy,” Obama said Monday. “We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”
However, the global economy is deeply dependent on the world’s second-largest economy.
“China is the largest trading partner for many nations involved in the TPP, including Japan, Singapore and Australia,” said the Global Times. “China is also second-largest trading partner of the US. Beijing has signed free trade agreements with Seoul and Canberra. Unilateral containment of China, a difficult task, will also backfire.
Some analysts are urging that TPP members should invite Beijing to join. China could make an even smarter play. It could call the US bluff by initiating negotiations to join TPP.