TPP About-Face

Global trade


As secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term, Hillary Clinton referred often to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement in the works between the U.S. and nearly a dozen other countries, mostly in Southeast Asia. That so-called "pivot to the Asia Pacific" was a cornerstone of her agency's "economic statecraft" agenda. "We are moving forward in negotiating a cutting-edge multilateral free trade agreement," she said in a 2011 speech. "Our work together to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership binds our countries together, increases stability, and promotes security," she declared one year later, in remarks alongside Australia's foreign minister.

By October 2015, when the parties finally reached an agreement on draft language, Clinton's tune had changed. Asked about the TPP on PBS' NewsHour, Clinton replied: "What I know about it, as of today, I'm not in favor of what I've learned….I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar I have set."

Labor unions strongly oppose the deal, as does Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's top challenger for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Before the TPP can become law, it stills need to be approved by Congress.

The deal seems to be a mixed bag from a free market perspective—it reduces or eliminates many trade tariffs and allows businesses from one country to compete "on equal footing" for government procurement contracts in other TPP countries, but it also requires increased enforcement by member states of intellectual property protections, according to a fact sheet from the government of New Zealand.