Trading Positions

- March 4, 2016

At Tomorrow Night's Debate, Expect Clinton To Spin Her Record Of Nakedly Political Flip-Flops On Free Trade Agreements


  • At tomorrow night's debate in Michigan, Clinton's chief rival, Bernie Sanders, will look to highlight Clinton's "election year conversions" on trade, and pluck support from labor unions that are already "feeling burned" by the Obama administration's trade policies.
  • Once heralding the agreement as the "gold standard," Clinton has been the biggest cheerleader for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) until she began her campaign for president.
  • Clinton used to hold up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as an example of a successful trade agreement, until opposing the agreement during her failed presidential run in 2008.
  • As Secretary of State, Clinton saw the free trade agreement with South Korea as a "milestone," but since running for president she has come out against it.
  • Clinton pledged to oppose the Columbia free trade agreement while running for president in 2008, but then became "absolutely committed" to passing it when she became Secretary of State.
  • While preparing for re-election to the Senate, Clinton called the passage of CAFTA a "sad day," but then touted it once she became Secretary of State.
  • By now, most Americans see that Clinton's transparently political posturing on trade "insults the electorate's intelligence" and "conveys the sense" that she just "wants to get elected."


This Weekend, Clinton Brings Her Dishonest Record On Trade To Michigan To Debate The Merits Of Her Multiple Trade Agreement Flip-Flops. (Mark Preston, "CNN To Hold Democratic Presidential Debate In Flint, Michigan," CNN, 3/3/16)


The Washington Post Headline: "In Appeal To Michigan Voters, Sanders Calls Clinton's Record On Trade A 'Disaster.'" (John Wagner, "In Appeal To Michigan Voters, Sanders Calls Clinton's Record On Trade A 'Disaster.'" The Washington Post , 3/3/16)

Sanders Plans To "Differentiate Himself From … Clinton In Michigan By Pointing Out Their 'Very Different Views' On Trade Policies." "Sanders said he will seek to differentiate himself from Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton in Michigan by pointing out their "very different views" on trade policies often derided by unions. He noted he opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement that Clinton's husband signed into law." (Jonathan Oosting, "Bernie Sanders: Trade Policies 'Decimated' Michigan," The Detroit News , 2/2/16)

Bernie Sanders' Campaign Statement: Clinton's "Election Year Conversions Won't Bring Back American Jobs." "Election year conversions won't bring back American jobs. Bernie Sanders believes that the top priority of any trade deal should be to help American workers and he's the only candidate who has consistently fought against job-killing trade deals." (Press Release, "Hillary Clinton: Outsource-In-Chief," Bernie 2016, 3/3/16)

Bernie Sanders' Campaign Statement: Clinton "Has Been A Consistent Advocate Of The Job-Killing Trade Deals" That Have Lost "Almost 5 Million Manufacturing Jobs Over The Last 15 Years." "At a rally on Wednesday former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told those gathered, 'Don't let anybody tell you we can't make anything in America anymore.' What she failed to tell the audience is that she has been a consistent advocate of the job-killing trade deals that have contributed to the loss of nearly 60,000 factories in the United States and almost 5 million manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years." (Press Release, "Hillary Clinton: Outsource-In-Chief," Bernie 2016, 3/3/16)

  • The Hill Headline: "Sanders: Clinton 'Very, Very Wrong' On Trade." (Vicki Needham, "Sanders: Clinton 'Very, Very Wrong' On Trade," The Hill, 3/3/16)


#1 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

FLIP: As Secretary Of State, Clinton Took "A Leading Part In Drafting The Trans-Pacific Partnership." "She's pressed the case for U.S. business in Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other countries in China's shadow. She's also taken a leading part in drafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade pact that would give U.S. companies a leg up on their Chinese competitors." (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Indira Laksmanan, "How Hillary Clinton Created A U.S. Business-Promotion Machine," Bloomberg, 1/10/13)

  • Clinton Had Said The Trans-Pacific Partnership "Sets The Gold Standard In Trade Agreements." "[We] need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment." (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks at Techport Australia , 11/15/12)

FLOP: Once Clinton Was Campaigning For President, She Publicly Announced Her Opposition To The TPP. "After months of delicately avoiding expressing an opinion on the controversial trade deal, Mrs. Clinton said the agreement in its current form did not meet her high bar for protecting American workers, the environment and advancing national security… But while Mrs. Clinton's opposition to the trade pact could do much to appease Democratic voters and labor unions that have seized on the deal as a symbol for the perils of globalization, her decision to repudiate a major legislative goal of Mr. Obama's - one she initially supported - carries significant political risks." (Amy Chozick, "Hillary Clinton Opposes Obama's Trade-Pacific Trade Deal," The New York Times , 10/7/15)

#2 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

FLIP: In 1998, Clinton Praised The Passage Of NAFTA, Pledging To Continue Free Trade Advocacy: "It Is Certainly Clear That We Have Not By Any Means Finished The Job That Has Begun." "At the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she praised corporations for mounting 'a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of NAFTA.' She added: 'It is certainly clear that we have not by any means finished the job that has begun.'" (Kristin Jensen and Mark Drajem, "Clinton Breaks With Husband's Legacy On Nafta Pact, China Trade," Bloomberg , 3/30/07)

  • Newsday Characterized Clinton's 2006 Position As Believing "NAFTA Has Been A Boon To The Economy." "Clinton thinks NAFTA has been a boon to the economy, but voted against the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, saying it would drive jobs offshore." (Michael Rothfeld, "Newsday's Guide To Politics And Politicians," [New York] Newsday, 9/11/06)

FLOP: The Last Time Clinton Was Campaigning For President, She Said "NAFTA And The Way It's Been Implemented Has Hurt A Lot Of American Workers." QUESTION: "Let's move on to another important topic for this audience in particular, the subject of trade. Senator Edwards had touched on this, Senator Clinton. Over the weekend, this past weekend, you expressed some disappointment that NAFTA, in your words, did not realize the benefits that it was promised - it promised, rather. How would you fix it?" CLINTON: "Well, I had said that for many years, that, you know, NAFTA and the way it's been implemented has hurt a lot of American workers. In fact, I did a study in New York looking at the impact of NAFTA on business people, workers and farmers who couldn't get their products into Canada despite NAFTA. So, clearly we have to have a broad reform in how we approach trade. NAFTA's a piece of it, but it's not the only piece of it." (Sen. Hillary Clinton,AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Forum, Chicago, IL, 8/7/07)

#3 U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS)

FLIP: In 2012, Clinton Called The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement A "Historic Milestone That Will Lead To Even More Trade And Investment Between Our Two Countries." "Today, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) enters into force, marking an historic milestone that will lead to even more trade and investment between our two countries. KORUS will provide new market access opportunities in Korea's dynamic trillion dollar economy for U.S. exporters, creating jobs here at home while increasing opportunities for Korean companies in the United States. This agreement is another example of this Administration's commitment to deepening our economic engagement throughout the world." (Press Release, "U.S., Korea Free Trade Agreement Takes Effect," U.S. State Department, 3/15/12)

FLOP: Once Campaigning For President, Clinton Claimed That She Opposed The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. CLINTON: "I think that there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for me, it really comes down to those three points that I made, and the fact that we've learned a lot about trade agreements in the past years. Sometimes they look great on paper. I know when President Obama came into office, he inherited a trade agreement with South Korea. I, along with other members of the Cabinet, pushed hard to get a better agreement. We think we made improvements. Now looking back on it, it doesn't have the results we thought it would have in terms of access to the market, more exports, et cetera." (PBS's "News Hour," 10/7/15)

#4 Colombia Free Trade Agreement

FLIP: In 2008, Clinton Opposed A Free Trade Agreement With Colombia, Pledging To Do "Everything I Can" To Defeat It. "Speaking about the Colombia trade deal at a Washington meeting of the Communications Workers of America union, Clinton proclaimed: 'As I have said for months, I oppose the deal. I have spoken out against the deal, I will vote against the deal, and I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.'" ("Clinton Reiterates Opposition To Colombia Trade Pact," Los Angeles Times, 4/9/08)

FLOP: As Secretary Of State, Clinton Said "We Are Absolutely Committed To Passing The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement." CLINTON: "And of course, we are absolutely committed to passing the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement to open new markets and create jobs and opportunities for both of our peoples." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks With Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, Washington, DC, 5/31/11)

#5 Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)

FLIP: While Preparing To Run For Reelection To The Senate Clinton Said The Day CAFTA First Passed The Senate Was "A Sad Day For Supporters Of Free And Fair Rules-Based Trade." CLINTON: "This is a sad day for supporters of free and fair rules-based trade. Our relationship with our Central American neighbors is a critical one. The right CAFTA deal would strengthen ties between the U.S. and these nations. I urge the Administration to reopen the CAFTA negotiations and re-establish the broad, bipartisan coalition for trade."(Hillary Clinton, Congressional Record, 6/30/05, S. 7731)

FLOP: As Secretary Of State, Clinton Touted Her Efforts Relating To CAFTA Saying "We've Worked To Promote Growth And Create Jobs Through … Multilateral Pacts Like NAFTA And CAFTA-DR." CLINTON: "In our region, prosperity has widened in recent decades. We've worked to promote growth and create jobs through sound fiscal policy, bilateral trade agreements, multilateral pacts like NAFTA and CAFTA-DR, and institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank." (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks At Pathways To Prosperity Ministerial, San Jose, Costa Rica, 3/4/10)


The Washington Post's David Ignatius: Clinton's Approach On Trade "Highlights Her Vulnerability As A Candidate" And "Conveys The Sense" That She Just "Wants To Get Elected." "But it's Clinton rope-a-dope approach to the TPP that deserves most attention, because it highlights her vulnerability as a candidate. Her caution conveys the sense that she's running because she wants to get elected, rather than as the exponent of a set of beliefs." (David Ignatius, "Time For Candidate Clinton To Step Up On Trade," The Washington Post , 5/14/15)

The Wall Street Journal Editorial: In A "Year When Voters Want Authenticity In A Candidate" Clinton "Seems Determined To Test That Proposition." "This is supposed to be the year when voters want authenticity in a candidate, but Hillary Clinton seems determined to test that proposition. On Wednesday President Obama's former Secretary of State came out against her former boss's Pacific trade agreement only two days after it was completed." (Editorial Board, "Hillary Trades Places With Clinton," The Wall Street Journal, 10/7/15)

Vox's Ezra Klein: Clinton's Flip-Flops On Trade Are Just Another Example Where Clinton Was "Swayed By Polls Or Interest Groups." "But Clinton's reputation as a policymaker is iffier - her critics can rattle off a long list of important decisions, ranging from the Iraq War to the bankruptcy bill, where they think she was swayed by polls or interest groups. Clinton, of course, isn't just a policymaker - she's a politician, and particularly when it comes to reading polls and managing interest groups, she's a good one." (Ezra Klein, "Why Clinton's TPP Opposition Unnerves Me," Vox, 10/8/15)

The Washington Post Editorial: "Clinton's Dash For The Tall Grass" On Trade Is "Transparently Inconsistent" And "Insults The Electorate's Intelligence." " Ms. Clinton's dash for the tall grass is transparently inconsistent with the position she embraced as Mr. Obama's secretary of state. "Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements - and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific," she wrote in an October 2011 cover story for Foreign Policy magazine. Indeed, given this well-known record, her avoidance now rather insults the electorate's intelligence." (Editorial, "Hillary Clinton, MIA On Trade, " The Washington Post ," 5/12/15)

The New York Times' David Brooks: Clinton Is "Campaigning On A Series Of Positions That She Transparently Does Not Believe In" And "Will, It Appears, Transparently Flip Back" After She Has The "Nomination In Hand And White House Won." "All presidential candidates face a core problem. To win their party's nomination in an age of growing polarization they have to adopt base-pleasing, pseudo-extreme policy positions. But to win a general election and actually govern they have to adopt semi-centrist majority positions. How can one person do both? Nobody had figured this out until, brilliantly, Hillary Clinton. She is campaigning on a series of positions that she transparently does not believe in. She'll say what she needs to say now to become Bernie Sanders in a pantsuit (wait, Bernie Sanders already wears a pantsuit!). Then, nomination in hand and White House won, she will, it appears, transparently flip back and embrace whatever other positions she doesn't believe in that will help her succeed in her new role." (David Brooks, Op-Ed, "Hillary Clinton's Opportunist Solution!"The New York Times, 10/9/15)


Already Feeling "Burned By The Obama Administration's Handling Of Trade," Labor Unions Are "Upset" With Clinton's Handling Of The Issue. "But labor officials feel burned by the Obama administration's handling of trade, and are upset Clinton did not take a clear stance against the trade promotion authority bill (TPA) that passed Congress this summer." (Ken Thomas, "'Give It A Go, Joe': Pittsburgh Union Crowd Cheers On Biden," The Associated Press , 9/8/15)

Despite Her Frontrunner Status, Clinton's Role In Negotiating Trade Deals As Secretary Of State "Has … Earned The Ire Of Union Rank-And-File." "Clinton's opposition to the deal will come as welcome news to trade unions, who overwhelmingly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership and fear it could cost millions of American jobs. Despite her status as a frontrunner status in the Democratic primary, her role in negotiating the deal as Secretary of State has hurt her reputation with the AFL-CIO and earned the ire of union rank-and-file." (Sam Frizell, "Hillary Clinton Opposes Trans-Pacific Partnership," Time, 10/7/15)

Union Officials Are "Frustrated With Clinton" And Are "Skeptical Of Her Commitment To Their Issues," Particularly Pending Trade Legislation. "Some labor officials are frustrated with Clinton for not coming to their aid in the fight over trade legislation in Congress, while others are skeptical of her commitment to their issues." (Ken Thomas, "'Give It A Go, Joe': Pittsburgh Union Crowd Cheers On Biden," The Associated Press , 9/8/15)

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