In a major blow to President Obama's trade agenda, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In an interview with PBS's Judy Woodruff, Clinton stressed that she hadn't seen the full agreement. However, she said, "As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set."
Clinton explained her skepticism by mentioning two of the most common objections to the deal among left-leaning critics: that it's too favorable to pharmaceutical companies, and that it doesn't include language prohibiting other countries from manipulating their currencies to gain a trade advantage.
The lack of currency manipulation language is a key concern of the labor movement, whose support could be crucial in next year's Democratic primary elections. Meanwhile, public health groups have raised concerns about language in the TPP that could raise the cost of medicines worldwide.
Obama faces a tough vote on the trade deal next year, and Clinton's comments won't help. They will give political cover to wavering congressional Democrats who want to help Obama but are also feeling grassroots pressure from labor unions and other liberal groups.
Clinton's comments also represent something of a flip-flop. During her time as Obama's secretary of state, from 2009 to 2013, Clinton repeatedly promoted the trade deal. While the final text is different from versions being considered when she was in office, neither of the concerns she's raising today — about benefits to pharmaceutical companies and the lack of language on currency manipulation — have changed since then.