Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday attempted to distance herself from the controversial 12-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. During her tenure as U.S. secretary of state, Clinton publicly promoted the pact 45 separate times -- but with her Democratic presidential rivals making opposition to the deal a centerpiece of their campaigns, Clinton now asserts she was never involved in the initiative.
"I did not work on TPP," she said after a meeting with leaders of labor unions who oppose the pact. "I advocated for a multinational trade agreement that would 'be the gold standard.' But that was the responsibility of the United States Trade Representative."
But at a congressional hearing in 2011, Clinton told lawmakers that "with respect to the TPP, although the State Department does not have the lead on this -- it is the United States Trade Representative -- we work closely with the USTR." Additionally, State Department cables reviewed by International Business Times show that her agency -- including her top aides -- were deeply involved in the diplomatic deliberations over the trade deal. The cables from 2009 and 2010, which were among a trove of documents disclosed by the website WikiLeaks, also show that the Clinton-run State Department advised the U.S. Trade Representative’s office on how to negotiate the deal with foreign government officials.
In recent months, labor, environmental, public health and consumer advocacy groups have campaigned against the TPP, saying the pact is a stealth attempt by corporations to tilt the rules of international commerce in their favor. They have specifically criticized provisions in the deal -- which are secret but have periodically leaked -- that they say would empower corporations to use international tribunals to attempt to overturn public interest laws. The groups represent many core Democratic Party constituencies that Clinton has been courting in her White House bid, which explains why in the lead-up to the party's primary she has suddenly depicted herself as a critic of the deal. But the cables show that the Clinton-run State Department was indeed a major player in pushing the initiative.
In one September 2009 cable, the State Department’s embassy officials in Wellington outline the New Zealand government’s desire for the United States to involve itself in the trade pact. An embassy cable from a few months later says the U.S. ambassador further discussed the TPP with New Zealand officials. In a February 2010 cable, the same embassy said that Clinton’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frankie Reed met with New Zealand trade officials and “engaged on a wide range of topics, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
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