What is Hillary Clinton’s trade policy?

HIllary Clinton

HIllary Clinton

Unlike with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, it is hard to figure out Hillary Clinton’s positions on trade treaties.

They are clearly and consistently opposed to all the major trade treaties from the North American Free Trade Agreement onward, including the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Clinton has been all over the map on this issue, supporting some trade treaties and opposing others.  The TPP agreement was signed while she was Secretary of State.  She supported it at the time, but now has doubts.  Some observers, however, wonder whether that is her true opinion, or whether pressure from the Sanders’ campaign has pushed her to the left.

If you put that topic to one side, I have to say that her foreign trade proposals are more detailed and thoughtful than either Trump’s or Sanders’.  She at least recognizes that the key is for the United States to rebuild its manufacturing strength rather than trying to force other nations to change their own economic policies.

Here are key Clinton proposals:

  • Reform the tax system so that American businesses can’t evade U.S. taxes by “inversion”—an accounting scheme where profits are assigned to overseas subsidiaries in tax havens.
  • Provide tax incentives for manufacturing companies to locate and remain in the United States, especially in high-unemployment areas.
  • Invest in infrastructure and in research and development to build up U.S. productivity.
  • “Aggressively combat” violations of trade treaties by foreign governments.
  • Set a “high bar” for future trade treaties.

I am favorably impressed with this thinking, except for the vagueness of her statements on trade treaties.  But I wonder how much she really means it.  I always wonder whether her expressed views on any given subject reflect anything more than a balance of the conflicting interests she must appease at any given time.

One clue to her priorities are her policies as Secretary of State.  She was a strong promoter of arms sales to foreign countries, which greatly increased during her tenure.  She looked out for the interests of banks, including foreign banks.

Much has been made of how certain corporations and foreign governments that benefited from Clinton’s policies as Secretary of State are also big contributors to her husband’s Clinton Foundation.  I don’t focus on this.

The more important question is whether her policies were good for her country and good for the world, or merely good for certain financiers and corporations  Increased arms sales helped Americans aerospace and weapons manufacturers.  You could argue that this was a way to keep Americans employed at good wages.

But what about her campaign to open foreign countries to fracking? Whether you think fracking in the United States is a good thing or a bad thing, the promoting of fracking in foreign countries hurts the domestic energy industry, including renewable energy companies.  It does, however, show Clinton’s commitment to the interests of international fossil fuel companies.


Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Win the Global Competition for Advanced Manufacturing Jobs from The Briefing.

Hillary Clinton on Free Trade from On the Issues.

Hillary Clinton’s Voting Record on Trade from VoteSmart.

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