Clinton opposes Obama’s trade deal

Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, in Davenport, Iowa.
Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, in Davenport, Iowa. AP

Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she opposes President Barack Obama’s trade deal even though she pushed it as secretary of state.

“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton told told PBS anchor Judy Woodruff in an interview. “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

Clinton said there are too many “unanswered questions” about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “What I know about it as of today, I am not in favor,” she said.

The free trade deal backed by the Obama administration has been opposed by liberal Democrats and labor unions. Her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is opposed as is former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley who says it could lead to lost jobs and will not raise labor and environmental standards abroad.

It’s the latest evidence that Sanders is forcing Clinton to the left. Just a few weeks ago, Clinton came out against the Keystone pipeline -- which Sanders also opposes.

He declined Wednesday to say whether Clinton’s shift will affect her credibility, adding “I’m glad that she reached that conclusion, this is a conclusion that I reached from Day One.”

And he declined to say whether he believes his role in the Democratic primary has caused Clinton to modify her stances: “I’m delighted that Sec. Clinton is on board,” Sanders said. “But to be very frank with you, it would have been more helpful to have her on board a few months ago.”

Her decision came days after chief negotiators hammered out a final agreement, but before it goes to Congress for review.

“Wow! That's a reversal!” O’Malley said Wednesday. “Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this, but I didn't have one opinion eight months ago and switch that opinion on the eve of debates. I'm against the Trans Pacific Partnership. I let people know that from the outset, and I think we need to focus on building up our own economy.”

Clinton’s decision is the latest policy issue where she’s broken with Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, who is considering whether to jump into the race.

Sanders has voted against U.S. trade pacts, saying they’re bad for American workers. He has been a sharp critic of what he calls Obama’s “disastrous” Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious trade pact involving the United States and 11 other nations, and vows to “do all that I can” to thwart the agreement in the Senate.

“This agreement follows failed trade deals with Mexico, China and other low-wage countries that have cost millions of jobs and shuttered tens of thousands of factories across the United States,” he said of the agreement.

Clinton supported Obama’s trade deal as his secretary of state but has been neutral on the issue on the campaign trail.

Sanders noted her timidity in a campaign email after the pact advanced last week, saying he couldn’t understand why “some candidates” hadn’t expressed an opinion on the issue. She told reporters on Tuesday that she was reviewing information on the package and would make a “timely decision.”

Her campaign issued a statement on her stance, saying that she was continuing to look at provisions in the pact, including efforts to crack down on currency manipulation.

“We’ve seen that even a strong deal can fall short on delivering the promised benefits,” she said. “So I don’t believe we can afford to keep giving new agreements the benefit of the doubt.”

She said she believes “in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was Secretary of State.

“I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this process and recognize the strides they made,’ she said. “But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don't believe this agreement has met it.”

Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark