Despite reservations, Tim Kaine still favors majority of TPP

Reports surfaced Saturday, the same day Hillary Clinton introduced her vice-presidential running mate, that Virginia Senator Tim Kaine told the presumptive Democratic nominee this past week he has reservations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a comprehensive international trade agreement among 12 countries, including the United States.

Previously having voted for legislation to give President Obama authority to negotiate TPP instead of Congress, so-called “fast track” authority, Kaine also told reporters as late as Thursday that he still favors many of the trade deal’s core principles.

“I see much in (TPP) to like. I think it’s an upgrade of labor standards. I think it’s an upgrade of environmental standards, I think it’s an upgrade in intellectual property protections,” Kaine told The Intercept.

The issue of free international trade has come to the forefront of U.S. politics in 2016, as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bucked contemporary Republican doctrine by campaigning against unbridled global capitalism in the primaries.  Some argue that lack of protection in the law for U.S.-made products has hurt American workers with the effect of suppressing wages and exporting jobs to Asia and Mexico over the past 40 years.

Hillary Clinton originally supported TPP while serving as Secretary of State during President Obama’s first-term, but has been forced to reverse course.  Starting in 2015, Clinton said she was “not in favor” of the agreement, succumbing to political pressure initiated by popular primary challenger Bernie Sanders.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is being forced to make a similar pivot, although the GOP vice-presidential candidate has been less explicit in his reversal.

Gov. Pence’s support for the agreement may be more politically acceptable for the majority of conservatives, however, given that TPP is favored by a majority of congressional Republicans.  Sen. Kaine, conversely, was one of only 12 other Democrats in the Senate to support fast track authority for the president.

“Fast track was to give President Obama the same tools to negotiate a trade deal that every president since Gerald Ford has had, and of course I voted for that,” Kaine explained this week. “Why would I not give to this president the same tools to negotiate a trade deal that other presidents have had?”

However, one of the largest points of contention for progressives is TPP’s “dispute resolutions”, which many fear would allow corporations to sue national governments for passing sovereign laws that contradict language of the agreement and negatively effect profit margins.

On that particular issue, Kaine commented that, “much of (TPP) I see I think as a significant improvement over the status quo. The dispute resolution mechanism I still have some significant concerns about.”

With both major party presidential nominees now expressing public concerns about the agreement, legislative approval of the deal is not expected at least until the new president takes office in 2017, if at all.


[Politico] [The Intercept] [CBS News] [Photo courtesy AP/Andrew Harnik via BreitBart]