Clinton opposes 12-nation trade deal

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she does not support a 12-nation free trade deal — a blow to the White House but a boost for U.S. automakers that have demanded provisions to prevent currency manipulation.

Clinton told PBS Newshour that she doesn’t support the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, citing that currency manipulation is not part of the agreement. She also said that a Korea free trade agreement that she backed while Secretary of State hasn’t worked as well as expected.

“We’ve lost American jobs to the manipulations that countries particularly in Asia have engaged in,” Clinton said. In a separate statement released by the campaign she said the practice “kills American jobs.”

Michigan Democrats have suggested the state has lost tens of thousands of jobs in part because of currency manipulation by China, Japan and other countries.

The opposition may help her in midwestern auto states, where hundreds of factories have closed over the last decade. She joins Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in opposing the deal.

Ford Motor Co., the United Auto Workers union, the AFL-CIO and many congressional Democrats have for years urged the White House to do more on currency manipulation as part of the deal that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s economy and a third of global trade.

“To ensure the future competitiveness of American manufacturing, we recommend Congress not approve TPP in its current form, and ask the Administration to renegotiate TPP and incorporate strong and enforceable currency rules,” Ford said.

The TPP deal will include a separate forum to raise currency issues, but President Barack Obama acknowledged in a radio interview Tuesday that they will not be binding.

“When it comes to currency manipulation, one of the things we have in the Trans-Pacific Partnership — and this is the first time we’ve been able to get all these countries to agree on it — there are a set of principles in terms of how you measure and what constitutes currency manipulation. Now it is not an enforceable provision,” Obama told “Marketplace.”

Ford and labor officials have raised currency issues with Clinton campaign advisers this year and urged her to take a stand this summer when Congress was debating fast-track authority.

Ford has been sounding the alarm on currency since 2011 during the Korea Free Trade talks, and major unions like the AFL-CIO and United Auto Workers and progressive groups have helped make currency manipulation the biggest roadblock to the Obama administration’s desire to win approval. The company said Monday it opposes the agreement without currency provisions.

General Motors Co. said it is studying the deal, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV declined to say. Toyota Motor Corp. supports the deal.

On Monday after more than eight years of talks, the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada and eight other nations announced a final deal that would create a free trade zone. Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are also part of the negotiations.

Reducing the value of another country’s currency makes its exports cheaper and its imports more expensive in dollar terms. Automakers fear that Japan — or China if it joins the agreement later — could use monetary policy to try to flood the market with cheap vehicles.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, blasted the lack of currency provisions.

“Currency manipulation — the mother of all trade barriers — has cost 5 million hardworking Americans the opportunity to earn a decent living over the last decades, and nothing that we have heard indicates negotiators sufficiently addressed these issues. The history of side deals in past trade agreements prove they are utterly useless, and we should expect no different in a side agreement on currency,” she said this week. “After months of bipartisan urging of the administration to include strong, enforceable currency provisions, their absence in the full text of the agreement makes this a failure for American workers and businesses.”