Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday said the problem with trade deals is that the U.S. doesn’t force other countries to live up to their end of the bargain.
She said America has to “stand up” to China and make it stop unfair trade practices that hurt U.S. businesses and kill U.S. jobs.
Mrs. Clinton’s excuses for the failures of the past trade deals and tough talk against China come as she refused to take a position on a massive trade agreement in the works with Pacific Rim countries, dubbed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
She said she wouldn’t judge TPP until she sees the details, which remain secret.
“I want to see the final provisions to determine whether they help protect American jobs, create American jobs and further our national security. That’s my litmus test,” Mrs. Clinton said at a forum in West Columbia, South Carolina.
Trade deals are a hot potato for Mrs. Clinton, reminding voters of the North American Free Trade Agreement that she supported when it was signed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, but which has been blamed for widespread job loses and the demise of U.S. manufacturing.
She turned against the deal when she ran for president in 2008, saying it need to be “fixed.”
The new deal has again pushed trade to the forefront of the presidential campaigns.
The 12-country TPP also has put Mrs. Clinton in a bind. The deal is a top priority for President Obama and Mrs. Clinton was his secretary of state during the early negotiations, when she touted it as the “gold standard” of trade deals.
But the agreement faces fierce opposition from labor unions and from the Democratic Party’s liberal base, whose support is vital to Mrs. Clinton’s White House bid.
Mrs. Clinton said that when she was a U.S. senator from New York she voted for some trade deals and against others, and she promised to also closely examine TPP before making up her mind.
“So I have no problem, even with the president of my own party, saying that I’m not for it. But I also have no problem if I am for it saying [so],” she said. “I think we’ve got to be very clear eyed about the fact that we are in a global economy.”
Mrs. Clinton said that there would be winners and losers in every trade deal. But she said the bigger problem was countries that don’t play by the rules.
“Our biggest problem has been with China, which whom we have no trade agreement,” she said. “We can’t let them be dumping products into the American market, underselling our business and making it practically impossible to do business in China unless we do business with someone the government wants you to do business with.”
“Shame on us if we don’t stand up to that and do more to create more jobs right here in America,” she said.