The likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has yet to show her feelings towards the latest effort to pass “fast track” trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
However, that could happen as soon as Monday morning when she takes the stage with prominent labor leaders at a Washington event put on by a liberal-leaning political think tank.
What she says could improve or worsen her position with unions, Democratic colleagues in Congress, the business community, and/or the sitting president, Barack Obama.
Liberal Democrats urging Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to get in the presidential race want Clinton to clarify her position as early as possible, given the fact that there is pending action in Congress on a “fast track” trade promotion authority bill, said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for Democracy for America.
Sroka said that some of the first questions she is asked as a presidential candidate could be about TPP and fast track.
“There’s lots of reasons that people are excited about getting Elizabeth Warren into the presidential race, but her outspokenness in the battle against TPP … is something that speaks to the progressive base’s concerns and is attracting people to this campaign.”
Union groups, including the AFL-CIO labor federation, also have deep concerns about the prospective trade pact with Japan and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific that, along with the United States, represent more than 40 percent of world gross domestic product.
“Every single thing in our trade deals should be openly discussed and subject to public oversight and the full legislative process,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a recent speech. “There should be no question about that. Fast track is wrong and undemocratic. It’s a rotten process, and the American labor movement intends to kill it.”
The labor federation fears the deal will encourage companies to move more jobs overseas, suppressing wages in the United States.
Obama wants Congress to approve the legislation quickly so he can wrap up the TPP pact and submit it to Congress for a vote later this year.
Trade promotion authority would allow him to submit trade agreements, like the proposed TPP, to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote without any amendments.
The next president – whoever it is – could also use the authority to negotiate a deal bringing China into the pact.
Trade promotion authority is also known as “fast track” because of its expedited voting procedures that union groups and many progressive Democrats don’t like.
Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, used the “fast track” procedure to win approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute blames for hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.
Clinton voted against the fast-track legislation the last time it was approved in 2002, although her husband repeatedly pushed for the same authority when he was president.
However, as Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton was closely associated with the agreement.