The Presidential Candidates on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
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The Presidential Candidates on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

July 30, 2019 11:53 am (EST)

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CFR invited the presidential candidates challenging President Trump in the 2020 election to articulate their positions on twelve critical foreign policy issues. Candidates’ answers are posted exactly as they are received. View all questions here.


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Under what circumstances, if any, would you support the United States joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), formerly the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Joe Biden

Joe Biden Former vice president of the United States

When it comes to trade, either we're going to write the rules of the road for the world or China is – and not in a way that advances our values. That's what happened when we backed out of TPP – we put China in the driver's seat. That's not good for our national security or for our workers. TPP wasn’t perfect but the idea behind it was a good one: to unite countries around high standards for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and transparency, and use our collective weight to curb China’s excesses. Going forward, my focus will be on rallying our friends in both Asia and Europe in setting the rules of the road for the 21st century and joining us to get tough on China and its trade and technology abuses. That’s much more effective than President Trump’s so-called America First approach that in practice is America Alone, alienating our allies and undermining the power of our collective leverage. My trade policy will also start at home, by investing in strengthening our greatest asset—our middle class. I would not sign any new trade deal until we have made major investments in our workers and infrastructure. Nor would I sign a deal that does not include representatives for labor and the environment at the negotiating table and strong protections for our workers.

Read all of Joe Biden’s responses.


Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg Former mayor of New York City Withdrawn

The Obama administration was right to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and President Trump was wrong to walk away from the deal. The pact as negotiated certainly had flaws, but under U.S. leadership these problems could have been fixed. By withdrawing from an agreement with 11 countries – nations that account for more than 40% of U.S. exports – the current administration has undermined America’s competitiveness, diminished its broader influence in the region and squandered an opportunity to lead the world toward a new global standard for trade rules. 

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As president, I will commit to bring the U.S. into a new and improved TPP that, among other things, would do more to protect American intellectual property, enforce tougher labor and environmental standards in the other member countries, and provide clear benefits for American workers. The ultimate goal of any trade deal is to improve the U.S. economy and the incomes of Americans. President Trump’s tariff war with China has instead cost American farmers and workers billions, without altering unfair Chinese trade practices. As a condition of joining, I’d insist on strong new measures to protect workers from the costs of economic disruption, whether caused by trade, automation or other kinds of innovation. These would include not just a bigger and more effective Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, but a range of new development initiatives to support affected workers and their communities, encompassing investment incentives, place-based wage subsidies, help with training and retraining, and more. 

A U.S.-led TPP would force China to raise its own standards to avoid being left out and put at a disadvantage. This shift would do more to protect American workers and farmers than bluster and tariffs. 

Read all of Michael Bloomberg’s responses.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker Senator, New JerseyWithdrawn

I voted against fast-track authority and opposed the TPP because it put large corporations before workers, and would have led to the further decline of U.S. manufacturing. I will only support a trade deal that, at its core, is focused on advancing the American worker and working families--creating jobs, lifting wages, and boosting environmental standards. 

Read all of Cory Booker’s responses.

Steve Bullock

Steve Bullock Governor of Montana Withdrawn

I will not sign any free trade agreement that doesn’t require high labor standards, leverage improved environmental conservation, and that isn’t accompanied by significant efforts to ensure that American workers are not left behind. By those standards, I would not have entered the TPP as it was originally written. If the agreement were improved, I would consider joining the CPTPP under the right circumstances. Before joining the CPTPP, I would seek enforceable environmental and labor standards. Additionally, joining an effective CPTPP has the potential to be an important element of a comprehensive U.S. strategy for pushing back against growing Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.

Read all of Steve Bullock’s responses.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana Withdrawn

I would not support the US joining the current CPTPP. It lacks critical trade provisions on labor, environment, and the digital economy, and does not align closely enough with the needs and interests of American workers. We must address failures in delivering on the social compact here at home. For too long, Washington sold trade deal after trade deal with the promise that a rising tide would lift all boats. It hasn’t — in part because it wasn’t accompanied by investment here at home — and Washington failed those left behind.

A lot of Americans just don’t trust the government to negotiate trade deals in their best interest. We need an honest national discussion about trade. Our work must begin at home. At the same time, we should not surrender the world’s fastest growing markets in Asia to other nations. It is where China wants to dominate and is buying influence through their Belt and Road initiative. China is negotiating broad new trade agreements with their neighbors that favor China’s economy and workers. These agreements also enshrine non-democratic principles at the expense of the US and free people. Sitting on the sidelines is a losing proposition for America.

We cannot just put up walls around our economy. We need to be setting the rules of the road for the future, so that strategic and economic competition with China happens on our terms.

Read all of Pete Buttigieg’s responses.

Julian Castro

Julian Castro Former secretary of housing and urban developmentWithdrawn

The United States must lead in writing the rules for global trade for American workers and American businesses to be the biggest winners. Trump’s erratic trade wars, with no end in sight, has cost American families up to $1000 this year in taxes and increased consumer costs across the board. I am not summarily opposed to trade deals, but we must learn from the lessons of agreements that have been signed.

Trade deals have too often centered the interests of corporations over workers and profits over people. I believe any new trade deal must empower working people, the poor, and other historically marginalized groups not just in the United States but also in partner countries to improve livelihoods. That includes standards for independent organized labor, technical assistance for workers to unionize, and robust monitoring to ensure equally enforceable agreements. I would only negotiate trade agreements that have enforceable labor standards that raise wages and promote organized labor in our partner countries. These agreements must have meaningful and extensive input from the labor unions in the United States from the beginning through initiation, negotiation, implementation, and sustainment of an agreement. 

Trade agreements will also be a powerful tool to use the allure of the United States market to further our climate goals. My first official action as President will be to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate agreement. I believe trade agreements should require a commitment to meeting goals  nder the Paris Climate agreement and follow-up agreements that the United States needs to negotiate to reach net-zero globally by 2050.

This approach uses our economic leverage to ensure binding labor and climate commitments while advancing America’s workers and improving the lives of millions of working families across the world.

Read all of Julian Castro’s responses.

John Delaney

John Delaney Former representative, MarylandWithdrawn

I would seek to reenter the TPP on day one of my administration. In response to the emergence of China as a dominant economic power on the international stage – which does not always adhere to accepted trade and economic norms and rules – 12 leading Pacific Rim countries reached agreement on a set of protocols for a rules-based trade deal covering 40% of the global economy to counter Chinese economic misconduct. I was one of a handful of Democrats who voted in favor of Trade Promotion Authority to give President Obama the ability to effectively negotiate TPP because I felt we needed a strong strategic response to China. I believed that the United States alone could not stand against China, that it would take a multilateral and strategic effort to counter China. The Trump Administration has abandoned this approach in favor of a trade war with China, a trade war that has had a serious negative impact on hard working Americans and several sectors of the United States economy.

Read all of John Delaney’s responses.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand Senator, New York Withdrawn

I opposed TPP because I do not believe it was good for American workers or American families. Any new agreement would need to: 

● Bring our allies to the table to hold China accountable for their cheating. China’s currency manipulation, dumping of steel, and stealing of intellectual property threaten the economy and security for free countries all around the world. 

● Prioritize American workers and not corporate interests by creating a new independent national worker dispute board, so that we don't agree to another trade deal that leaves workers holding the bag.

● Raise worldwide standards on the environment, using it as a way to tackle global climate change.

● Ensure the right to collectively bargain, both at home and abroad, because sham unions abroad and Right to Work at home both contribute to the culture of greed and profits that create massive income inequality.

Read all of Kirsten Gillibrand’s responses.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris Senator, California Withdrawn

As I’ve long said, I will oppose any trade deal that doesn't look out for the best interests of American workers and raise environmental standards, and unfortunately the TPP didn’t pass either test. I also raised concerns at the time about the lack of transparency in the process.
In my administration, labor and civil society groups will always have a seat at the table to ensure that trade agreements do achieve these important objectives. And I think that’s exactly what we need – pro-labor, pro-environment trade deals – because it’s clear Donald Trump’s protectionist approach has been a disaster. His trade war is crushing American farmers, killing American jobs, and punishing American consumers.  I would work with our allies in Europe and Asia to confront China on its troubling trade practices, not perpetuate Trump’s failing tariff war that is being paid for by hard-working Americans. 

Read all of Kamala Harris's responses.

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton Representative, Massachusetts Withdrawn

Under Trump, we’ve seen what happens when the United States doesn’t lead in these multilateral efforts: China steps in and tries to remake the world in their autocratic, illiberal image. For that reason and more, my administration would re-engage in the TPP negotiations, focusing on strengthening labor and environmental standards. The goal must be to conclude a strong, fair trade deal for the Pacific on our terms, not China’s.

Read all of Seth Moulton’s responses.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke Former representative, TexasWithdrawn

The United States should only enter trade agreements that benefit American workers and consumers. As President, I will not support joining the CPTPP unless we are able to negotiate substantial improvements to protect workers, the environment, and human rights.  I will also demand that any agreement include effective enforcement mechanisms.

Read all of Beto O'Rourke responses.

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick Former governor, Massachusetts Withdrawn

Our decision not to enter the TPP undermined the critical strategic goal of creating an economic, security and diplomatic counterweight to China in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world.  As a progressive Democrat, I supported the TPP because I was—and remain—convinced that it would raise wages, create jobs, protect the environment, and empower workers at home and abroad.  The reduction in regulations and tariffs on small businesses was a particular benefit.  The countries that joined the CPTPP are already reaping the benefits of those protections.  Leading economists have predicted that, by not signing the TPP, the United States has not only lost the economic benefits of closer, more constructive trading partnerships but is now worse off than it was before by continuing to trade outside that framework.

My administration will seek to reclaim these benefits by joining and negotiating to improve the existing trade partnership.  The CPTPP lacks some of the critical features of the TPP, such as protections for intellectual property and avenues for investors to bring disputes against foreign governments.  We will seek to reestablish these protections as well as others that will protect American workers, such as improved labor standards.

The United States must use our substantial leverage in trade negotiations as the world’s largest economy to build alternative, more constructive trade partnerships in the Pacific rim as China expands its trading influence across the same region. We will seek to achieve this goal and substantial gains for American workers in a renewed agreement.

Read all of Deval Patrick’s responses.

Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan Representative, Ohio Withdrawn

I have spent my entire career fighting bad trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. I am currently opposed to the CPTPP because it has been negotiated under the cover of darkness, it does nothing to protect American workers or lift the standards of workers abroad and further erodes sovereign protections that countries have to hold companies accountable for bad actions abroad. I simply couldn’t support a trade deal that does this much damage.

Read all of Tim Ryan’s responses.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Senator, Vermont Withdrawn

Under no circumstance would we rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership under a Sanders Administration. I helped lead the effort against this disastrous unfettered trade agreement.  The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered free trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories.

Re-joining the TPP would not bring back one American job that has been outsourced to China. Instead, it would force more American workers to compete with desperate workers in Vietnam who make less than a dollar an hour and migrant computer workers in Malaysia who are working as modern-day slaves. It is bad enough to force U.S. workers to compete with low-wage labor; they should not be forced to compete with no-wage labor.

We need to fundamentally rewrite our trade policies to benefit American workers, not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations. Rejoining the TPP would be a betrayal of American workers and a step in the wrong direction.

Read all of Bernie Sanders’s responses.

Joe Sestak

Joe Sestak Former representative, PennsylvaniaWithdrawn

I believe we lost an important opportunity to shape the future of global trade when we withdrew our involvement from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While that trade agreement was far from perfect, it gave us the chance to set the rules of engagement across a critically important region, home to some of the world’s most dynamic, influential, and rapidly changing countries – and within a framework that does not include China. We need to set the standards of fair trade in the region where China has none, and our withdrawal sent a worrying signal to our regional friends and allies that we are not interested in continuing our strong traditional relationship, nor in expanding our political engagement with them. In the absence of US global leadership, China will inevitably fill the vacuum. We should have addressed some issues in the CPTPP – such as the expanded monopoly protections for the pharmaceutical industry that were in it, against the interests of consumers. As President, I will seek to reaffirm our commitment to the Asia Pacific region by re-joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership while improving the agreement to ensure that it serves our people, not merely our corporations (including in arenas as intellectual property, data privacy protections, and environmental standards). I will make certain that all future trade agreements and trade policy decisions are made principally for the benefit of the American people. This is not just a trade issue: it is a serious geo-political issue. We need to commit ourselves to positive engagement with the countries of the Asia Pacific region, which is the most strategically important area in the 21st century for America.

Read all of Joe Sestak’s responses.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren Senator, Massachusetts Withdrawn

Our relationships in Asia are essential for U.S. national security and prosperity, and the countries at the heart of the CPTPP are some of America’s closest allies and best partners. My administration will be committed to working with them. 

But I have made clear that I will not enter into new trade agreements unless and until our potential partners meet certain preconditions that match our values and our policy goals - including combating climate change, respecting basic labor standards, and cracking down on tax evasion. I strongly opposed TPP because I thought it was a bad deal for American workers. As president, I will make sure that any new trade agreement we enter sets strong standards and prioritizes working families instead of the interests of giant multinational corporations with no particular allegiance or loyalty to America.  

President Trump’s recent trade war escalations are doing real harm to American consumers and farmers. We need a serious, coherent trade strategy that tackles the challenge of China’s commercial behavior and protects American workers and farmers. Instead of alienating our allies and others who share our concerns, my administration will work with those countries to use America’s leverage and all of the tools at our disposal to invest in workers, curtail the power of multinational monopolies, and raise standards across the globe.

Read all of Elizabeth Warren’s responses.

Bill Weld

Bill Weld Former governor, MassachusettsWithdrawn

I stand for free trade. Withdrawing from TPP, like ripping up NAFTA, was a huge mistake by the President. As Benjamin Franklin said, Americans are traders and never went broke from engaging in international trade. Every U.S. governor knows international trade means more and better jobs for Americans. We therefore should rejoin TPP, now CPTPP. In addition, of course, there is an important strategic reason for doing so: a 12-nation beachhead in Asia without China at the table. (During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump was seemingly unaware that China was not to be a member of TPP.)

Read all of Bill Weld’s responses.

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson AuthorWithdrawn

The TPP would need greater protections for workers and the environment for me to support it.

Read all of Marianne Williamson’s responses.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang Entrepreneur Withdrawn

Trade deals have inarguably hurt a large number of Americans. By outsourcing American jobs - particularly manufacturing jobs to China - we’ve devastated communities and placed large amounts of financial stress on families.

However, studies show that only 20% of manufacturing job loss is due to trade with China. The other 80% can be attributed to automation. While we need to take steps to ensure that our trade deals work for all Americans, automation is the bigger threat.

I would reenter the TPP in conjunction with policies to ensure the benefits are widely shared, like a VAT, border-adjustment tax, and the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month for all American adults.

We need to increase our influence and alliances across the Pacific, so I believe we need to either enter the TPP, or negotiate a similar deal to combat the rising influence of China in the region. We should take this opportunity to renegotiate labor and environmental standards, and intellectual property and data protection, specifically in the tech sector.

Read all of Andrew Yang’s responses.


This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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