Hillary Clinton is following in the footsteps of Barack Obama — in hypocrisy about trade.
As a young senator seeking the presidency, Obama opposed free trade to polish his credentials with Democratic unions, who often have opposed the trade deals that have grown America’s economy and promoted global commerce.
Once in office, President Obama has had to relearn the economics 101 that he obviously paid little attention to back in his college days. As president, responsible to the interest of American consumers and workers as a whole, he’s come around on trade. He’s backed agreements with Asian and Latin American trade partners and has fought in Congress for the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The TPP was something that Secretary of State Clinton supported, at least in general terms.
One can say Obama’s position on trade evolved. Clinton’s position on trade has devolved.
The “conditional” opposition to the proposed agreement shows that candidate Clinton fails to recognize what she acknowledged as the head of the State Department: No trade deal is perfect, as it involves innumerable compromises across the huge range of purchases made in a global economy.
A deal — like the North American Free Trade Agreement achieved in Bill Clinton’s administration — has upsides and downsides across differing businesses and industries. Any “conditional” discussion is a way of tangling up the politics of approval and killing complex trade pacts.
“I still believe in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was secretary of state,” Clinton said in her written statement.
“I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this process and recognize the strides they made. But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don’t believe this agreement has met it.”
This is hypocrisy. If the overall health of the economy is the outcome of free trade agreements, and that has been the case for many years, then leaders, such as Obama, would be foolish to turn them down. That intellectual bar is really not high.
Louisiana is a major trading state, with an immense complex of ports and rail connections that can generate even more economic activity if trade agreements allow broader global commerce.
We have a significant interest in TPP and other potential agreements to ease trade flows across the Atlantic Ocean as well.
We hope that politics does not get in the way.