It’s hard to imagine a bigger political flip-flop.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is traveling across the Midwest, a region suffering from a massive loss of manufacturing jobs, claiming she opposes a trade deal she once called the “gold standard.”
In short, she’s lying to voters’ faces — most recently in Ohio, where she’s seeking a primary win.
Ohio voters want stricter rules on auto imports than the Obama administration negotiated in its Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that’s a major priority for the White House.
Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, automobiles could be imported tax-free into the U.S. even if most parts in those vehicles were made in countries that are not in the trade alliance.
That’s drawn opposition from auto-state senators, such as Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, who say it would encourage manufacturers to use cheaper parts from China, which is not part of the agreement.
“It’s one of the reasons I oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Clinton, campaigning with Brown in Youngstown on Saturday night. “When I saw what was in it, it was clear to me there were too many loopholes, too many opportunities for folks to be taken advantage of.”
Of course, Clinton didn’t always feel that way. While Secretary of State, Clinton was an enthusiastic supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has still not been approved by Congress.
Clinton first came out against the trade agreement in the fall, driving a wedge between Obama and herself. As his secretary of state, she had advocated for the agreement dozens of times, calling it the “gold standard” of trade deals as it took shape.
But after her loss in Michigan last week, she is trying to boost support in Rust Belt states, where rival Bernie Sanders has shown strength. He’s made opposition to trade agreements, which he argues hurt American workers, central in his campaign. Clinton promised her policies would usher in a “manufacturing renaissance.”
Sanders frequently criticizes Clinton’s past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and one normalizing trade relations with China. Both were signed by President Bill Clinton while she was first lady.
Sanders tweeted Friday night that as president, he would not send the Pacific agreement to Congress and he’ll “continue to fight efforts to pass it,” urging Clinton to join him in that cause. Clinton has not said whether she would back a renegotiated version of the deal.
“We don’t need to tinker with this agreement. We need to defeat it,” Sanders said in a statement. “We need an entirely new trade policy that creates jobs in this country, not more low-wage jobs abroad.”
The Pacific trade deal, yet to be given legislative approval in the U.S., would erase most tariffs and other trade barriers among a dozen nations that account for nearly 40 percent of global economic output. They are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.