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Hillary Clinton's Support for Trade Agreements Rankles Many on Left

Hillary Clinton's Support for Trade Agreements Rankles Many on Left
(Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 January 2015 09:42 AM

One of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and the Obama administration is trade, but it is an issue that is engendering strong opposition from congressional Democrats and labor unions, and could prove problematic for one potential presidential candidate — Hillary Clinton.

Two of the most outspoken critics of President Barack Obama's pursuit of trade pacts with Europe and Asia, as well as trade promotion authority, are Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom have been eyed as possible candidates in 2016.

In recent weeks, Sanders has led labor unions in calling on the administration to be more open about its negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and is not shying away from a public fight with Obama.

"It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it," the Vermont senator wrote in a Jan. 5 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Froman also received a similar letter from Warren concerning certain provisions included in the TPP.

"We are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises. With millions of families still struggling to recover from the last financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, we cannot afford a trade deal that undermines the government's ability to protect the American economy," wrote Warren, a first-term senator from Massachusetts, in a letter sent in December.

The vocal opposition of Warren and Sanders has been cheered by labor union officials, who will be key players in the Democrat presidential primary, and is a stark contrast to the silence of Hillary Clinton, whose own record on free trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiated and signed by her husband Bill in 1992, has been somewhat mixed.

Ironically, free trade and NAFTA were matters of spirited debate between Clinton and Obama during the 2008 Democrat presidential primary.

Speaking before an audience in Pennsylvania, Clinton claimed she had opposed NAFTA and had called Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), on the day it passed and said "we lost," according to The New York Times.

“I appreciate Gerry talking about how I did speak out, and I did speak out and oppose NAFTA,” she said later, trying to distance herself from the actions of her husband's administration.

“The president made a different decision, but whether it’s President McEntee or [then-White House adviser] David Gergen or the people who were in those meetings in the White House, they know that I raised a big yellow caution flag."

However, Clinton's schedule as first lady shows she did lobby in favor of NAFTA.

The danger NAFTA, as well as her service in the Obama administration, poses to her possible candidacy arose when she set off on a tour to promote her memoir.

"We hope she's a different person now," Roger Hickey, founder of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, told The Washington Post last year.

"Is Hillary going to run and govern if she’s elected on the basis of that administration that she was a part of, or has she changed in any way?” he added.

The push by the Obama administration on TPP only revives the issue of NAFTA — and the focus on Clinton.

"I think NAFTA itself will be remembered for as long as this generation draws a warm breath.

"When I talk to people about it, they don't remember that it was a Republican majority that passed NAFTA. They remember that it was President Clinton," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told CNN in a recent interview.

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One of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and the Obama administration is trade, but it is an issue which is engendering strong opposition from congressional Democrats and labor unions, and could prove problematic for one potential presidential candidate – Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders
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2015-42-14
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 09:42 AM
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