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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal became an issue during her Feb. 4 debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire. She says she now opposes it.
MSNBC debate moderator Chuck Todd pointed out that Clinton supported the deal while secretary of state, then asked her whether she might support such agreements again if she were elected.
Clinton said she had voted against a previous trade deal as a U.S. senator and, regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, "I said that I was holding out the hope that (TPP) would be the kind of trade agreement that I was looking for.
"I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the (Obama) administration," she said. "Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it."
Did Clinton really withhold her support until the terms of the proposal had been finalized?
PolitiFact has looked at the issue before. We found Clinton made plenty of strongly supportive comments about the deal while negotiations were still ongoing.
Speaking in Australia in 2012, Clinton hailed the deal as "setting the gold standard."
"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," Clinton said. "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."
Strong words for a deal that hadn't been completed yet. But it wasn’t just on that one occasion that Clinton was more than just hopeful about the deal’s impact.
She declared in November 2012 remarks in Singapore that it would "lower barriers, raise standards, and drive long-term growth across the region.
"It will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and establish strong protections for workers and the environment. Better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions, including for women, migrant workers and others too often in the past excluded from the formal economy will help build Asia's middle class and rebalance the global economy."
As PolitiFact reported in October, she also used words such as "exciting," "innovative," "ambitious," "groundbreaking," "cutting-edge," "high-quality" and "high-standard" in describing the partnership before she left the State Department in 2013.
The partners finalized the deal in 2015.
Why the change of heart? In Thursday’s debate, Clinton said she opposes the trade deal because, "We have failed to provide the basic safety net support that American workers need in order to be able to compete and win in the global economy."
Clinton said, "I waited until (the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement) had actually been negotiated" before deciding whether to endorse it.
As secretary of state and a member of the Obama administration, it was Clinton's job to promote the deal, even if it wasn't finalized.
Nonetheless, her comments at the time were so positive and so definitive, it becomes disingenuous to argue, as she's doing now, that she didn't endorse the deal before it was finalized.
We rate her statement Half True.
PolitiFact, "What Hillary Clinton really said about TPP and the 'gold standard,'" Oct. 13, 2015 and "Hillary Clinton flip-flops on Trans-Pacific Partnership," Oct. 8, 2015
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 Nick Merrill, Oct. 13, 2015
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