Obama's Commerce Secretary: 'I Don't Understand' Hillary Clinton's TPP Reversal

Pritzker: 'It is the toughest trade agreement out there'

April 4, 2016

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said she didn't understand Hillary Clinton's reversal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, agreeing with Clinton's initial framing of it as the "gold standard" for trade agreements during a Monday interview on Morning Joe.

MSNBC panelist John Heilemann reminded Pritzker that Clinton, when she was secretary of state, championed the TPP before coming out against it as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016. Indeed, theĀ Washington Free Beacon made a montage of the numerous times Clinton praised the agreement. She called it "innovative," "far-reaching," and an "exciting opportunity."

However, Clinton moved left on the agreement in a bid to out-flank Sen. Bernie Sander (I., Vt.), her opponent for the Democratic nomination who has railed against the TPP and other free trade agreements.

"Did the agreement change in some substantive way between 2012 and 2016?" Heilemann asked. "I know it got negotiated in that period, but what would be the basis on which you would go from calling it the gold standard to finding it unacceptable?"

"I don't understand that conclusion, because frankly, having looked at this agreement, studied this agreement, I think it is the gold standard," Pritzker said. "It is the toughest trade agreement out there in the world. Can you pick holes in the agreement? Of course. Any negotiation, there's a give-and-take.

"But, frankly, the idea that 12 countries have come together and said we're going to lower tariffs, we're going to raise labor standards ... The fastest-growing service export in the United States are our digital products. Think of our leadership in the world. TPP creates an absolute level playing field for American companies."

Pritzker said the agreement had evolved, but to be "better, not worse."

"So you agree with Hillary Clinton in 2012, but not 2016," host Joe Scarborough said.

"I agree that this is an agreement that should be passed now," she said.

President Obama has strongly defended the TPP against criticism from his own party, calling critics like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) "just wrong" in their concerns.