Depending on who you ask, the Trans Pacific Partnership, a sweeping multinational trade deal between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations, will either bring about a new golden era in global business investment or is the dark harbinger of further American jobs losses overseas.
The political rhetoric surrounding the international agreement, which represents one-third of the world’s trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy, has been heated. The 2016 presidential contenders, Congress, President Obama and trade groups of every stripe have waded into the fray with vigorous back and forth over the deal’s merits (or lack thereof).
The latest volley in the verbal fight over the trade deal, better known as “TPP,” centers on whether Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has tread cautiously in how she discusses the Obama-backed deal, will indeed support the efforts of her former boss.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally, initially said she will support it as long as there are a few tweaks. Not so, says Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who tweeted that “Hillary opposes TPP BEFORE and AFTER the election. Period. Full stop."
Later in the day, at a union event for Democratic delegates, McAuliffe said "Hillary is against TPP and she is always gonna stay against TPP. Let me be crystal clear about that."
Here’s five things you need to know about the trade agreement:
So what exactly is the “TPP”?
The Trans Pacific Partnership seeks to make it easier to open up new markets to U.S. businesses — especially those in the Pacific Rim, a big Obama administration policy push. Everything from Florida oranges to Japanese video games would flow more freely, proponents say. And the deal would lower taxes on such goods as an incentive to increase imports and exports. There are also regulations aimed at protecting consumers, workers and businesses against such things as labor practice violations, intellectual property theft and environmental provisions.
Who supports it?
President Obama is a big proponent. In fact, he netted a win when the member nations’ trade chiefs backed the deal last fall. The deal has received nods from a number of Republicans in Congress, the agriculture and tech sectors and even Hollywood, which wants stronger copyright protections.
Who’s against it?
Sen. Bernie Sanders is deeply opposed. He even mounted a failed effort to get language opposing the deal put into the draft Democratic platform as his party prepared for its convention in Philadelphia. He’s not the only one who is not a fan. Add to the list a number of congressional Democrats, environmental groups, liberal-learning organizations and labor unions. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made opposition to the trade deal a fixture in rallies and stump speeches.
And Hillary Clinton?
Well… that’s complicated. When she was secretary of state, Clinton backed the version of the Trans Pacific Partnership that was still being crafted. However, later when she was running in a tight series of primaries, she stressed that the deal didn’t adequately protect American workers.
This is a very tricky issue for Clinton — her husband, former President Bill Clinton -- helped get the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress in 1994. Those who oppose the “TPP” call it "NAFTA on steroids." Trump and his campaign warn that “Crooked Hillary Clinton will betray you on the TPP.”
So what’s next?
Expect more back and forth over this issue in the general election as the Trump campaign seizes on the trade deal as an example of what they see as Clinton’s political posturing and an area in which they can possibly draw disaffected Sanders supporters. In the meantime, proponents hope that a Republican-controlled Congress can ratify the deal during Obama’s lame-duck phase before a new president, opposed to the deal as currently written, takes office.