Sanders forces push trade agreement opposition at DNC platform meeting

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Trade policy is emerging as a point of tension between the Bernie Sanders team and the party establishment in the drafting of the Democratic Party platform. 

[Jonathan Swan| June 9, 2016 |The Hill]

While Hillary Clinton came out against the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asian trade deal that she previously championed as secretary of State, the Sanders forces still doubt the sincerity of her opposition to the agreement and appear to want specific language inserted into the platform to oppose the TPP. 

The fault lines exposed themselves Thursday morning during a meeting of the Democratic National Committee’s 15-person platform drafting committee at a Washington hotel. 

“As you know there is a tension between the so-called populists in the Democratic Party and the so-called neo-liberals over the issue of the TPP,” said Cornel West, a Sanders ally on the drafting committee. 

“I’m going to advance that it’s very important that we, in our platform, make a statement about TPP," West added, in a roundtable debate on trade in the drafting committee's Thursday morning session. 

Labor leader Richard Trumka agreed forcefully with West in his testimony to the drafting committee.

Trumka, who is , president of the AFL-CIO,  said the Democratic Party mustn’t allow itself to be outflanked by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump over the issue of trade. 

“Unless you make a strong statement [about the TPP], the American public is going to be confused by the opposite side who is very sharp and clear on trade,” Trumka said, adding that he thinks Trump doesn’t believe what he’s saying on trade. 

“If we simply muddle through the issue we’ll lose votes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan … every state that’s seen a failed trade agreement work to their disadvantage.

“I think we have to be crystal clear and sharp on the issue, otherwise we lose to a Republican Party coming from the left.” 

Asked about the potential for conflict over the TPP in the party platform, a senior Democrat and Clinton ally told The Hill that there was "no daylight between Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton on TPP." 

"They both opposed it," the source said, adding that Clinton was promoting policies to hold accountable American companies that are sending jobs overseas and was open to working with Sanders to find agreement on the platform. 

Still, a Team Sanders request to denounce the TPP in the platform would put the White House in a tricky position. 

While Clinton opposes the TPP and wants to accommodate as many of Sanders’s demands as possible in the interest of party unity, it would be a major — and probably unacceptable — deal for the party to explicitly oppose a signature initiative of the sitting president and leader of the party. 

Anti-TPP language would also be a major back flip on the trade language used in the 2012 Democratic Party platform. 

Regarding the TPP, the 2012 platform stated, “We remain committed to finding more markets for American-made goods — including using the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the United States and eight countries in the Asia-Pacific, one of the most dynamic regions in the world.” 

Sticking up for the importance of international trade agreements at Thursday’s meeting was Kurt Campbell, a Clinton ally and former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. 

Campbell told the platform drafting committee that he recognized American workers’ concerns about the TPP but he said that “on balance, my view is to try to work it out” and amend the trade deal rather than abandon it altogether. 

“We cannot walk away from this,” Campbell said. “We have to figure out — is there a way we can adjust it? Is there a way that we can work with other partners to find a way forward? 

"For the simple reason that we just cannot afford to withdraw from this critical region.” 

But Sanders’s policy director, Warren Gunnels, made clear to Campbell that the Sanders campaign would not be entertaining such nuances.

“I don’t think that we can amend or tinker around the edges with the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Gunnels told Campbell. 

“I think we need to kill it.” 

The audience applauded Gunnels as he forcefully rejected the TPP. 

In a brief interview with The Hill on the sidelines of the meeting Thursday morning, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Sanders supporter on the platform drafting committee, said he was optimistic that unity could be found between the Clinton and Sanders forces.

Pressed on the emerging points of tension, Ellison said he envisaged the most vigorous debates being over trade, environmental policy and the approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Clinton favors a more hawkish foreign policy and more uncompromising support for Israel than does Sanders, who speaks up more frequently for Palestinian rights. 

“On some foreign policy issues you may see a spirited discussion around how the Democratic Party wants to present itself around the conflict in the Holy Land,” Ellison said. 

 

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  • commented 2016-06-14 16:36:57 -0400
    Warren Gunnels is right. Actually, he is repeating Hillary Clinton’s assessment. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton wants to tinker around the edges of TPP. We all want a good trade policy that raises living standards and expresses our values as a country. TPP is not it.

    TPP is the “no” that must be said before the “yes.”
  • commented 2016-06-14 16:06:34 -0400
    THANK YOU BERNIE X 100,000!
    If it weren’t for BERNIE turning up the heat in the kitchen SLICK HILLY would still be telling WE THE PEOPLE just how great the TPP is.
    As I recall several months ago during a debate SLICK HILLY was nudged by BERNIE to come out and say that she was against the BAD TRADE DEALS, and yet since that time, to the best of my knowledge, she still hasn’t made any public efforts to convince PRESIDENT OBAMA to drop the TPP. Depending on how things go during the up and coming LAME DUCK SESSION of CONGRESS our next President will be a big factor as to what kind of damage OUR ECONOMY will face. As of now, it looks like the race for the President is between SLICK HILLY and the TRAMP, and something tells me when it comes to the TPP neither of the TWO would have a hard time changing their mind about it.
  • commented 2016-06-11 09:23:19 -0400
    Congress already gave away their ability to amend or tinker the trade deal by passing “fast track” authority, so there is no room for tweaking or “working with” or murky wishy washy compromise at all. It has to be killed, period.
    Fast track being a blank check to executive branch to do who knows what, ought to raise constitutional separation of powers issues. Aside from that, if Donald Trump can defy the Speaker of the House and the GOP establishment on trade (or at least appear to do so), why can’t the Dem platform committee defy a sitting president on trade and do so with far more force and credibility?
    There are term limits on presidents for a reason.