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Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll October 8, 2015

Hillary Clinton flip-flops on Trans-Pacific Partnership

Since the start of her 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton hasn’t taken a strong position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal -- saying she would reserve judgment until the deal was finalized.

Well, the negotiations recently came to a close, and Clinton promptly announced that she opposes the deal.

"As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it," she said in an Oct. 8 interview with PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff, adding, "I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set."

This stance has some people scratching their heads, because she praised the negotiations while serving as secretary of state.

We thought we should take a look back and see how Clinton’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has evolved. She has addressed the trade deal on a number of occasions since official negotiations started in 2010 (CNN counted at least 45 comments), so we’ll note her most representative remarks in chronological order.

Sept. 8, 2010, remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations: "We want to realize the benefits from greater economic integration. In order to do that, we have to be willing to play. To this end ... we're pursuing a regional agreement with the nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we know that that will help create new jobs and opportunities here at home."

March 9, 2011, remarks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum: "The United States is also making important progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will bring together nine APEC economies in a cutting-edge, next generation trade deal, one that aims to eliminate all trade tariffs by 2015 while improving supply change, saving energy, enhancing business practices both through information technology and green technologies."

July 8, 2012, remarks with a Japanese official: "The United States welcomes Japan's interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we think will connect economies throughout the region, making trade and investment easier, spurring exports, creating jobs."

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Nov. 5, 2012, remarks in Australia: "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."

July 2014, in her memoir Hard Choices: "Because TPP negotiations are still ongoing, it makes sense to reserve judgment until we can evaluate the final proposed agreement. It’s safe to say the TPP won’t be perfect -- no deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be -- but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers… The TPP became the economic pillar of our strategy in Asia."

May 22, 2015, at a press conference in New Hampshire: "I've been for trade agreements, I've been against trade agreements, voted for some, voted against others, so I want to judge this when I see exactly what exactly is in it and whether or not I think it meets my standards," adding she had some "concerns" about the TPP.

There is an obvious difference in tenor between Clinton’s remarks as a member of the Obama administration and today as a presidential candidate. Across the whole time period, she has said details needed to be hammered out, and they had to meet certain standards. But her comments were more positive on the whole from 2010-13 than they have been recently.

Here are some of the words she used to describe the TPP before she left the State Department in 2013: "exciting," "innovative," "ambitious," "groundbreaking," "cutting-edge," "high-quality," "high-standard" and "gold standard." She also publicly encouraged more nations to get involved, such as Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, and she expressed hope that the negotiations would wrap up by the end of 2012.

As a presidential candidate she has used more hedging language, for example saying she has "some concerns," and now she has said she outright doesn’t support the deal as it stands.

While some pundits have painted Clinton’s transition as political -- an appeal to liberals who oppose the deal -- she might have legitimately changed her mind. It’s possible the deal looks dramatically different than it did at the early stages of negotiations, when Clinton was at the State Department. The negotiations have been conducted in secret, so it’s hard for us to assess that ourselves. Also, as secretary of state, she represented the Obama administration, which remains wholeheartedly in favor of the deal.

"I still believe 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," Clinton said in an Oct. 7 statement. "I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this process and recognize the strides they made. But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don't believe this agreement has met it."

It’s up to voters to decide how they feel about her changed stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but we rate Clinton’s reversal as a Full Flop.

Our Sources

PBS Newshour, "Hillary Clinton says she does not support Trans-Pacific Partnership," Oct. 7, 2015

PolitiFact, "Hillary Clinton has 'been very clear' on trade, campaign chair says," June 14, 2015

PolitiFact, "How Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton differ on the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Sept. 2, 2015

NBC First Read, "Why Clinton’s flip-flop on trade is so unbelievable," Oct. 8, 2015

CNN, "45 times Secretary Clinton pushed the trade bill she now opposes," June 15, 2015

State Department, "Former Secretary Clinton's Remarks," accessed Oct. 8, 2015

Clinton campaign, "Hillary Clinton Statement on Trans-Pacific Partnership," Oct. 7, 2015

NPR, "A Timeline Of Hillary Clinton's Evolution On Trade," April 21, 2015

Email interview, Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin, Oct. 7, 2015

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Hillary Clinton flip-flops on Trans-Pacific Partnership

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