Elizabeth Warren stands up to lame duck Obama on free trade deal

22 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Democrats’ trade spat becomes a full-on brawl.

Emotional disagreements over trade erupted in Congress on Wednesday, when a liberal senator delayed a committee’s likely endorsement of a top trade priority for President Barack Obama. In Washington and on the campaign trail, the public sniping over whether Congress should give the White House power to clinch the biggest free-trade deal in history has reached new heights. Jeb Bush picked a fight with Hillary Clinton over trade on Wednesday with a blog post accusing her of a “politically motivated flip flop” on White House-backed trade legislation in order to satisfy progressive Democrats. “I haven’t changed in my view even though Hillary Clinton has,” Bush wrote in a short op-ed published on Medium. “It is time to move forward as even recent Democratic presidents have recognized — and Sec. Clinton shouldn’t stand in the way for political gain.” The Obama administration is currently negotiating the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping proposed trade deal with a dozen Pacific Rim nations, and there’s an ongoing related fight in Washington over whether to grant the president authority to fast track its Congressional review process.

Clinton strongly encouraged the negotiations as Obama’s secretary of state, but has changed her tone on the issue since reentering politics as a presidential candidate. “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 in a November 2012 speech in Australia that Bush quoted in his piece. “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. More recently, she talked up a possible deal in her 2014 memoirs Hard Choices. “It’s safe to say that TPP won’t be perfect — no deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be — but its high standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers,” Clinton wrote. “Hillary Clinton believes that any new trade measure has to pass two tests: First, it should put us in a position to protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home. He said the committee would work late into the night if necessary to address many proposed amendments. “We’re going to finish this bill today, I don’t care how much time it takes,” he said. Second, it must also strengthen our national security,” Merrill said. “We should be willing to walk away from any outcome that falls short of these tests.” Merrill added that Clinton would look to a deal to crack down on “currency manipulation,” an issue that Obama administration officials are concerned could create new problems for the United States and potentially kill a deal. The Hatch-Sanders dispute is one of many emerging as Congress turns to trade proposals bitterly opposed by labor unions and others who say trade pacts hurt U.S. jobs.

Bush added TPP would boost the economy at home and “strengthen our ties to our allies throughout the Pacific region, including our close allies and partners in Australia, Mexico and Japan.” The trade fight muddies conventional partisan lines like few other campaign issues. Many Democrats and labor unions are wary of free trade deals and complain that the TPP will encourage labor abuses and cause American jobs to move overseas. He wants fast-track powers to help push free-trade proposals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. “I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” Obama said in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC. “When you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.” Several top Democrats aren’t backing down, however. For the time being, Clinton has threaded the needle, laying out conditions for what she would deem a successful trade deal, but not commenting directly on what is before Congress. “American workers whose jobs could be on the line right now are owed more than lip service. Martin O’Malley, who is undeclared but positioning himself to run to Clinton’s left in a Democratic primary, has gone on offense in recent days against TPP, putting pressure on Clinton to follow suit.

Clinton’s and Obama’s stands — and liberal groups’ opposition — pose a dilemma for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady now seeking the presidency herself. On the other side, Republican leaders in the House and Senate favor a deal and have publicly encouraged Obama’s negotiations even though some rank-and-file members are skeptical. “I know there is political risk in supporting free trade,” Bush wrote on Wednesday. “TPP is President Obama’s biggest trade initiative. Campaigning Tuesday in New Hampshire, she declined to say whether she supports the Pacific-rim proposal. “We need to build things, too,” Clinton said, taking a pro-manufacturing stance generally embraced by both parties. “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive,” she said, while getting back to “a much more focused effort, in my opinion, to try to produce those capacities here at home.” Senate Finance Committee member Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., says the administration must press China to stop manipulating its currency, even though China isn’t a party to the Pacific-rim negotiations. “I’m disappointed in the efforts by President Obama,” Schumer said.

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