The front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination in the US presidential race, Hillary Clinton, is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
She’s told US broadcaster PBS there “unanswered questions” about the deal, which the Australian government this week hailed as ushering in a “new era of economic growth and opportunity across the fast-growing Asia-Pacific.”
“What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favour” Clinton said. “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”
Clinton was involved in laying the foundations for the deal as secretary of state in Barack Obama’s administration. Her opponents reacted by mocking her statement (which you can see in full here), as she used to extensively praise the Pacific trade deal. CNN once counted up 45 times she spoke in favour of the TPP.
The TPP covers 40% of global trade and involves the dropping of thousands of tariffs in trade between Pacific Rim nations. Its implementation, however, requires swathes of legislation to be passed in the signatory countries through their respective political systems.
Trade Minster Andrew Robb said the agreement as “transformational” and said the TPP is the “biggest global trade deal in 20 years.” Striking a deal between 12 nations with vastly different economies, industries and competing interests is in itself a remarkable achievement.
If ratified by the 12 nations the TPP will open up a market of more than 800 million people to Australian businesses with particular benefits in cattle, dairy, sugar, agriculture, and across Australia’s vast services sector. Without this deal many of these markets remain effectively closed to Australian exporters due to tariff and other restrictions.
Key to the agreement also is the establishment of a common set or rules which sets a framework for the conduct of trade within the 12 nations. This cuts red tape and lowers the cost of exports.
So Australia now has a lot at stake.
While Clinton highlights that she is yet to see the full details of the agreement she makes a direct reference to trade minister Robb’s heralded victory in the battle with his US counterpart in the negotiations over patent rights for pharmaceutical companies as a point of her concern.
Her concerns are that big pharma might have won out over consumers, so Andrew Robb most likely feels he can assuage that doubt. However, her other comments which include a reference on currency manipulation within the region may prove more difficult to deal with.
Clinton is not the only politician in the 12 nations to voice concerns. But she is the front-runner against her main rivals including Bernie Sanders among the Democratic candidates. She also leads the current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, in an average of head-to-head published polls by Real Clear Politics.
Her comments suggest that if she was to win the race to the White House the TPP would, at the very least, be subject to some significant revisions before implementation by the US.
Here’s the clip: