Clinton opposes Pacific trade deal in major break with Obama

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against The TPP

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton declared her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord on Wednesday, marking her most significant break with President Barack Obama and the policies she once promoted as his chief diplomat.

SEE MORE:Obama apologizes to aid group for US attack on Afghan clinic

"I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions," she said of the sweeping trade deal in an interview with PBS' "Newshour." ''As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it."

Her push-back against the chief economic proposal of Obama's second term is a blow to the president, undermining his efforts to win congressional approval of a deal years in the making. It also underscores the ways Clinton must break from her work in the Obama administration to appeal to a party base seeking a new liberal standard bearer.

See images of Hillary Clinton:

63 PHOTOS
Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign
See Gallery
Clinton opposes Pacific trade deal in major break with Obama
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 10: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds a campaign rally at City Garage April 10, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. Voters will head to polling places for Maryland's presidential primary April 26. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs as she listens to Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) speak on a gun control panel in Port Washington, New York April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds a Latino organizing event on April 9, 2016 while campaigning in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. The New York Democratic primary is scheduled for April 19th. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
SPRINGFIELD, MA - FEBRUARY 29: Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a 'Get Out The Vote' rally at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History on February 29, 2016 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Massachusetts and Virginia ahead of Super Tuesday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters at the Old South Meeting Hall during a rally in Boston, Massachusetts on Monday February 29, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 01: Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets patrons at Mapps Coffee on March 1, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Minnesota as Super Tuesday voting takes place in 12 states. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters as she arrives at a rally at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by her daughter Chelsea Clinton, reacts to applause as she arrives for a rally at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, hugs Annette Bebout, 73, of Newton, during a campaign event at Berg Middle School, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 in Newton, Iowa. Bebout told her story of how she lost her home to the audience. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by former President Bill Clinton, right, and their daughter Chelsea Clinton, left, arrives to speak at a rally at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at BR Miller Middle School in Marshalltown, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton makes a point during the Brown & Black Forum, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, right, and high school teacher David Swaney laugh about their colorful outfits before Swaney asks Clinton a question during a town hall at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts to applause from the audience while standing with Brenda Bouchard, an Alzheimer's research advocate, during a town hall style campaign event, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, at South Church in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks about her counterterrorism strategy during a speech at the University of Minnesota Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets local residents at Apple Orchard Cafe Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts as she talks to supporters after a Democratic presidential primary debate, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters before speaking at a campaign rally in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton smiles as she arrives to speak at a town hall meeting Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Clinton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks from a gymnasium side porch to people who weren't able to fit in to hear her speech at Fisk University Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hand with a supporter during a town hall meeting Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Coralville, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to customers at the White Mountain Cafe & Bookstore, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Gorham, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a meeting of the Alabama Democratic Conference in Hoover, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Clinton tells black Alabama Democrats that she'd champion voting rights in the White House. She says Republicans are dismantling the progress of the civil rights movement. (AP Photo/Mark Almond)
MOUNT VERNON, IOWA - OCTOBER 7: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to voters during an outdoor town hall meeting at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa on Wednesday October 7, 2015. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts to a supporter before speaking at a community forum, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
MUSCATINE, IOWA - OCTOBER 6: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a voter before leaving a farm in Muscatine, Iowa on Tuesday October 6, 2015. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - OCTOBER 05: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a town hall meeting at the Manchester Community College on October 5, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Clinton spoke about the need for gun control on the wake of a mass shooting at another community college in Oregon. (Photo by Alfredo Sosa/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures as she speaks at Human Rights Campaign gathering in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
DAVIE, FL - OCTOBER 02: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks about gun control during her campaign stop at the Broward College à Hugh Adams Central Campus on October 2, 2015 in Davie, Florida. Hillary Clinton continues to campaign for the nomination of the Democratic Party as their presidential candidate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a grassroots organizing meeting at Philander Smith College Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19: Hillary Clinton attends the Phoenix Awards Dinner at the 45th Annual Legislative Black Caucus Foundation Conference at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on September 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - SEPTEMBER 19: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claps on stage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the Verizon Wireless Center on September 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Challenger for the democratic vote Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been gaining ground on Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 18: Hillary Clinton brings her Democratic presidential campaign to Maine for the first time, speaking at King Middle School. Clinton is welcomed as she is introduced at the event. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - SEPTEMBER 7: Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton takes time to meet supporters and take photos at the Annual Hawkeye Labor Council AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic on September 7, 2015 at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Clinton spent a busy Labor Day weekend in Iowa, meeting supporters throughout the state while trying to maintain a lead over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes part in a discussion after speaking about the Iran nuclear deal at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, on September 9, 2015. Clinton expressed firm support for the nuclear accord with Iran, calling it flawed but still strong. Clinton added that the agreement must be strictly enforced and said that if elected president next year, she would not hesitate to use military force if Iran fails to live up to its word and tries to develop a bomb. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTSMOUTH, NH - SEPTEMBER 5: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen take an off the schedule stop in the River Run Bookstore before shaking hands with onlookers on September 5, 2015 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PORTSMOUTH, NH - SEPTEMBER 5: Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton receives an endorsement from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) September 5, 2015 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Clinton attended a Women for Hillary event at Portsmouth High School. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
PORTSMOUTH, NH - SEPTEMBER 5: Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton walks downtown Portsmouth and takes pictures with people September 5, 2015 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Clinton attended a Women for Hillary event at Portsmouth High School earlier in the day and received an endorsement from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 18: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions from journalists after speaking to north Las Vegas voters at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, on Tuesday, August 18, 2015. The former Secretary was answering questions about emails sent and received a private server system, now in question, while she was the Secretary of State. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - August 15: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton greets fairgoers as she tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, August 15, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton tours the Des Moines Area Rapid Transit Central Station with general manager Elizabeth Presutti, left, and building superintendent Keith Welch, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
CARROLL, IA - JULY 26: Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests gathered for a house party on July 26, 2015 in Carroll, Iowa. Although Clinton leads all other Democratic contenders, a recent poll had her trailing several of the Republican candidates in Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters after a campaign event, Thursday, July 23, 2015 in Columbia, S.C. Clinton talked about what she said was a lack of educational and economic opportunities, and a criminal justice system that treats blacks more harshly than whites. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Chelsea Galinos, 21, left, who painted a picture of the democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, greets Clinton after a campaign event in New York, Monday, July 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at the Iowa City Public Library, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FILE - In this June 20, 2015, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 83rd Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Clinton’s presidential campaign jumped on the Supreme Court decision, changing its red campaign logo to a rainbow colored H, releasing a gauzy video of gay wedding ceremonies, and blasting out supportive tweets aimed at building its campaign list. But like President Barack Obama, such expressions of support mark a remarkable shift for Clinton, who opposed gay marriage for more than two decades as a first lady, a U.S. senator and a presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Mathew Sumner, File)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to supporters during a rally, Sunday, June 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. Seeking an army of volunteers, Clinton is trying to build an organizational edge in Iowa as some of her lesser-known Democratic rivals clamor for attention in the state that tripped up her first presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to supporters during a rally, Sunday, June 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. Clinton's campaign has signaled Iowa will be the centerpiece of its ground game. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves to supporters as her husband former President Bill Clinton, second from right, Chelsea Clinton, second from left, and her husband Marc Mezvinsky, join on stage Saturday, June 13, 2015, on Roosevelt Island in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the "Hillary For America" official campaign launch event at Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island on Saturday, June 13, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Supporters watch as democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks Saturday, June 13, 2015, on Roosevelt Island in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to supporters Saturday, June 13, 2015, on Roosevelt Island in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers a speech at Texas Southern University in Houston, Thursday, June 4, 2015. Clinton is calling for an expansion of early voting and pushing back against Republican-led efforts to restrict voting access, laying down a marker on voting rights at the start of her presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 20: Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a meeting with parents and child care workers at the Center for New Horizons on May 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Clinton arrived in Chicago after campaigning Monday and Tuesday in Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton greets a local resident while visiting local shops on main street in Independence, Iowa, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 05: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) poses with students and faculty after speaking at Rancho High School on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clinton said that any immigration reform would need to include a path to 'full and equal citizenship.' (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, a 2016 Democratic presidential contender, steps to the podium to speak at the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal attend the 2015 DVF Awards at United Nations on April 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University April 29, 2015 in New York City. Clinton addressed the unrest in Baltimore, called for police body cameras and a reform to sentencing. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with employees at Whitney Brothers during a campaign stop, Monday, April 20, 2015, in Keene, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Hillary Clinton announced her campaign for president on Sunday April, 12, 2015 with a video on YouTube. 

(Screenshot from YouTube)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Clinton joins the rest of the Democratic field in challenging a trade pact that's enraged the labor unions, environmentalists and other liberal constituencies whose support will be crucial to her electoral success. The now-united opposition from the party's presidential contenders leaves Obama in the uncomfortable position of watching a Democratic debate next week in which none of the major candidates is willing to defend a deal that the White House sees as a key piece of his presidential legacy.

A potential exception is Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to say whether he will join the race. His office said Wednesday that he supports the agreement and will work to get it approved in Congress.

Clinton said in a statement, "I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this process and recognize the strides they made. But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don't believe this agreement has met it."

In the interview, Clinton said the agreement does not meet her standard for creating jobs, raising wages and protecting national security. She raised specific concerns about a potential for currency manipulation by China and provisions that she said would benefit pharmaceutical companies at the expense of patients.

Her position on the agreement marks a striking reversal for the former secretary of state, who promoted the deal in dozens of appearances during Obama's first term in office - a turnaround that was not lost on her primary opponents.

"Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this but I can tell you that I didn't have one opinion eight months ago and then switch that opinion on the eve of debates," said one rival, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Clinton's support for trade deals has seemed to fluctuate with the political calendar.

As first lady, she trumpeted the North American deal brokered by her husband, telling unionized garment workers in 1996 that the agreement was "proving its worth."

SEE MORE:Coast Guard ending search for sunken cargo ship's crew

Her support for trade pacts began softening during her time as a New York senator, when she voted for agreements with Chile, Singapore, Oman and Morocco but opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

In a November 2007 presidential debate, Clinton described the North American agreement, with Canada and Mexico, as "a mistake" and called for a "trade timeout."

In that vein, she said she opposed then-pending agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. But fast-forward to July 2011 when, as secretary of state, she described those three deals as "critical to our economic recovery."

She also repeatedly lent her support to the Pacific trade initiative being pushed by Obama, describing the deal during a 2012 trip to Australia as the "gold standard in trade agreements."

Clinton's campaign and the Obama administration have always said the time would come when she would outline her own policies and deliver criticisms, implied and direct, of the president.

Still, Clinton aides know she must tread lightly when it comes to criticizing Obama, given that much of her strategy relies on the still-loyal coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, women and younger voters that twice elected Obama. But at the same time, they say she must find ways to distinguish herself - and undercut Republican attacks that Clinton would simply provide a third Obama term.

The White House doesn't deny that Clinton's new distance has sometimes created awkwardness for the president. Many of Clinton's top aides joined her campaign from the White House and the two staffs remain in frequent communication. Briefing her on the trade deal was policy aide Jake Sullivan, who formerly worked in the White House as national security adviser to Vice President Biden.

The Clinton campaign gave White House aides a heads-up Wednesday before she made the comments, according to a White House official who asked for anonymity in discussing the private conversation.

The White House had no immediate comment on Clinton's position. When asked earlier Wednesday about the strong opposition to the deal in the Democratic Party, spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Clinton's opposition wouldn't sink the deal.

Earnest noted the "intense opposition" from Democrats in the summer, when the administration pushed for legislation giving the president "fast-track" trade promotion powers.

"The fact is, despite that opposition, the president did succeed in building a bipartisan majority in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate to secure the passage of that legislation," he said.

---

Lerer reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Kathleen Hennessey and Ken Thomas contributed from Washington.

More from AOL.com:
Putin spends his birthday playing hockey with NHL stars
South Carolina still on edge from flooding; 2 people missing
Russia fires missiles as Syrian troops launch ground push

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners