As late as June 2015 Hillary Clinton and her campaign were still plotting how to defend her work on the Trans Pacific Partnership and free trade in general, according to newly leaked emails.
Mrs. Clinton, in a email to her top advisers, sent around a column by former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in The Washington Post arguing that rejecting the TPP would dent U.S. leadership.
“Damning w[sic] faint praise but good arguments,” Mrs. Clinton wrote to top foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan and campaign chairman John Podesta.
Mr. Sullivan seemed enthusiastic, saying Mr. Summers “offers a sober basis for proceeding” with the TPP.
Mr. Podesta countered that Mr. Summers’ arguments didn’t get at average Americans’ concerns.
“This is smart, but essentially about American power. The issues around economic equity, environment, middle class worker protection seem like throw aways at the end. We need to rebuild the argument around those issues. I don’t think people will rally for IMF restructuring,” he wrote.
Mrs. Clinton came back, saying that the arguments would help with “more sophisticated audiences or interviews.”
Mrs. Clinton was part of the Obama administration when negotiations on the TPP were ongoing, and at one time said it would be the “gold standard” for trade agreements, protecting workers’ rights and addressing environmental concerns.
In a March 2015 email, her team had drafted a letter on trade and her speechwriter said he assumed “that she’s ultimately going to support both TPA and TPP.”
But she has been forced to alter her stance during this campaign, battered from the left by Sen. Bernard Sanders and from the right by GOP nominee Donald Trump, both of whom oppose the TPP.
Mrs. Clinton finally came out against the TPP in October 2015, saying what she’s learned about the agreement had soured her on it. Mrs. Clinton announced her opposition just days ahead of a Democratic primary debate with Mr. Sanders.
The final text of the TPP wasn’t agreed to until earlier this year.
In a series of emails plotting how Mrs. Clinton would announce her opposition in October, Mr. Sullivan appears to bow to fears of angering the White House, removing criticism of the South Korea free trade deal that President George W. Bush negotiated but President Obama finally shepherded through.