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Trade deal poses dilemma for Clinton in Democratic primary

Pending trade deal creates complications for Clinton in 2016 White House campaign

Trade deal poses dilemma for Clinton in Democratic primary

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton lavished praise on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, on a trip to Australia in 2012, calling it the "gold standard" in efforts to create open and fair trade.

Now, early in her Democratic presidential campaign, she's striking a different tone -- determinedly non-committal, with a hint of skepticism about the sweeping trade agreement she promoted as President Barack Obama's secretary of state. "Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security," Clinton said at a New Hampshire community college last week.

The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership under negotiation by Obama has divided the Democratic Party, leaving Clinton caught between angry liberal activists and the president she once served. It's a fight Clinton has seen before.

She went from backing the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s to renouncing it during her first presidential bid in the 2008 campaign -- her positions on trade shifting several times over her decades in politics.

Now, Republicans are pressing for a closer look at what she's said and done on trade, with the Republican National Committee filing a request under the public-records law for her State Department correspondence with the U.S. trade representative.

At the same time, potential Democratic rivals are pressing Clinton to take a firmer stance against the emerging deal, which would eliminate tariffs and many other trade barriers for the U.S., Canada and Asian countries in their commerce with each other. Critics are using it to question Clinton's commitment to protecting U.S. workers.

Clinton's support for trade deals has fluctuated with the political calendar.

As first lady, she trumpeted the North American deal brokered by her husband, telling unionized garment workers in 1996 that the agreement was "proving its worth." In her 2003 memoir, she noted that the deal was "unpopular with labor unions" but "an important administration goal."

Her support for trade pacts began softening during her time as a New York senator, when she voted for trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Oman, and Morocco but opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

In a November 2007 presidential debate, Clinton described the North American agreement, with Canada and Mexico, as "a mistake" and called for a "trade timeout."

In that vein, she said she opposed then-pending trade agreements with Korea, Columbia, and Panama. But fast-forward to July 2011 when, as secretary of state, she described those three deals as "critical to our economic recovery."

Trade is polarizing, she said then, but "done right, it creates jobs."

She also repeatedly lent her support to the Pacific trade initiative at that time, saying she wanted to "expedite the negotiations as much as possible" and describing the deal as including "strong protections for workers and the environment."

Now, as a candidate, that enthusiasm appears to have waned.

Updated : 2021-09-26 22:19 GMT+08:00