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