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Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu August 7, 2016

Tim Kaine says he hasn't changed his position on Trans-Pacific Partnership (unlike Clinton)

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine defended Hillary Clinton from public skepticism over her trustworthiness and addressed his own pro-trade baggage Aug. 7 on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Clinton has "learned from" her email controversy and will be "real transparent" moving forward, Kaine said. While Clinton’s trust issue lies predominantly with independent and Republican voters, Kaine’s critics are progressives who fault him for his perceived past support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Host Chuck Todd said Kaine "essentially switched" his position on the trade deal to align with Clinton’s own flip-flop, but Kaine begged to differ:

"I haven’t switched my position," he said.

"I was a strong supporter a year ago of giving President Obama the ability to negotiate a trade deal. But I said at the time, when that deal was done and on the table, I was going to look at it very carefully. And I even expressed a very serious concern I had with how it was developed, which is that companies were given rights to enforce provisions, but the labor and environmental provisions could not be effectively enforced.

That was never fixed. I've asked again and again to understand this piece of the TPP. And I've never gotten a good answer. We can't have a deal that cannot be enforced. And so, for that reason, yeah, I'm going to oppose it in the lame duck if it comes up after Election Day."

Has Kaine’s position on the trade deal been consistent?

Kaine’s turn on the trade deal was not as dramatic as the presidential nominee’s. But there was still a noticeable shift when he became Clinton’s running mate.

Kaine is against the deal now, but he had kinder things to say about it before without taking a firm position.

Many point to Kaine’s support for Trade Promotion Authority — which allows the president to negotiate a trade treaty with only an up-or-down vote on the final package in the Senate — as proof of his pro-TPP stance.

Kaine was just one of 13 Senate Democrats who voted in June 2015 to give Obama fast-track authority. On the day of the vote, Kaine explained his thinking to The Atlantic.

"For my sake, I got assurances I need that made me feel comfortable voting today. But I've got a backstop, which is if those assurances are not met, then I will vote against the treaty when it eventually hits the table," he said. "I'm not going to vote for TPP when there is no program to retrain workers who are affected by trade."

That’s roughly what he’s been saying for the past year and a half: He supports giving Obama negotiating authority, but would wait for TPP to be finalized before taking a stance on it. Here are some examples of what he’s said:

• May 7, 2015, interview with Politico: "I tell everybody the same thing: I’m pro-trade, but it’s got to be under the right conditions, and I want to make sure that that’s the case."

• May 14, 2015, statement to the Hampton Daily Press: Giving Obama fast-track authority "gives the U.S. the best chance of elevating the standards for global trade in ways that will level the playing field," but "as we prepare to take up major trade initiatives in the coming months, my biggest priority is ensuring we can negotiate enforceable deals that protect workers' rights, environmental standards and intellectual property, while eliminating barriers that some countries erect to keep American products out."

• May 16, 2015, column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "I will support TPA because it gives the U.S. the best chance of elevating the standards for global trade in ways that will level the playing field for our workers, farmers and companies. My support for TPA is not a blind endorsement of any pending trade negotiation. Once we establish our key principles, I will make sure that the specifics of any final deal are placed before the public and fully debated to see if they meet our standards and help Virginia."

• June 18, 2015, interview on the John Frederick Show: "I support the president’s ability to try to negotiate trade deals that other presidents have had — that’s the Trade Promotion Authority. And if the president and his team can get a good deal with the 12 Pacific rim nations — this Trans-Pacific Partnership — I will be supportive of a good deal. I won't support a bad deal."

• Nov. 5, 2015, statement applauding the public release of the deal: "I look forward to having extensive dialogue with Virginians about the provisions of the deal."

So Kaine is right that he never took an official stance on TPP and has always advocated for labor and environmental provisions. But in recent weeks, he’s also praised the deal without saying he would support it. (The Senate voted for fast-track authority in June 2015, but TPP itself has yet to be ratified. Given that Clinton and Donald Trump are both against the deal, supporters are hoping a lame-duck Congress will pass it before 2017.)

"I see much in the TPP draft — which has now been public and apparent to everybody for quite a while — that I like," he said to Politico on July 11. "There’s one piece that I’m still really digging into is the dispute resolution."

"I am having discussions with a lot of groups around Virginia about the treaty itself. I see much to like. I think it’s an upgrade of labor standards, I think it’s an upgrade of environmental standards. I think it’s an upgrade of intellectual property protections," he told the Intercept on July 21, a day before Clinton announced him as her VP pick.

Kaine then formally came out opposing TPP when he officially joined the ticket. When asked how Obama felt about Kaine’s shift on the deal, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he’d let Kaine speak for himself.

Our ruling

Kaine said, "I haven’t switched my position" on TPP.

Though Kaine voted to give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals, a piece of legislation that paved the groundwork for TPP, he never took an official position on the deal itself.

Throughout 2015, he reiterated he would oppose the deal if it didn’t have strong environmental and labor provisions. But in July 2016, Kaine repeatedly praised TPP for including those exact protections.

Days later, as Clinton’s running mate, he came out against the trade deal.

We rate Kaine’s claim Half True.

Our Sources

NBC, Meet the Press, Aug. 7, 2016

Nexis, CQ and Google searches

Politico, "13 Senate Dems vote with GOP to advance trade bill," June 23, 2015

Politico, "McConnell tees up trade war," May 7, 2015

Daily Press, "With Kaine and Warner support, trade bill moves ahead," May 14, 2015

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Kaine: Virginia is a global gateway," May 16, 2015

John Frederick Show, "Senator Tim Kaine: TPP will be the most transparent bill yet!," June 18, 2015

The Atlantic, "Obama's Fast-Track Bill Inches Another Step Forward," June 23, 2015


The Intercept, "Hours Before Hillary Clinton’s VP Decision, Likely Pick Tim Kaine Praises the TPP," July 21, 2016

Twitter, Hillary Clinton, July 22, 2016

Huffington Post, "Hillary Clinton Names Tim Kaine As Her Running Mate," July 22, 2016

White House, "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest," July 25, 2016

Email interview with Tim Hogan, spokesman for Hillary Clinton, Aug. 7, 2016

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Tim Kaine says he hasn't changed his position on Trans-Pacific Partnership (unlike Clinton)

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