Never before have both main presidential candidates broken so completely with Washington orthodoxy on globalisation, even as the White House refuses to give up. The problem, however, goes much deeper than trade deals
Enemies in politics and opposed on nearly all fronts, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have found themselves united together against Barack Obama and a tradition that has kept America in charge of the world economys rules for more than 70 years. The next president of the United States is rethinking free trade.
In Washington, that tradition was taken for granted for so long that it rarely attracted much attention even in the business press, let alone dominated the politics pages of an entire election season. But in 2016, Americas faltering faith in free trade has become the most sensitive controversy in DC never before have both main presidential candidates broken with the orthodoxy that globalisation is always good for Americans.
The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), between 12 countries around the Pacific rim, excluding China, suddenlyfaces a wall of political opposition among lawmakers who had, not long ago, nearly set the giant deal in stone. Parallel negotiations between the US and Europe, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), are suddenly even more behind: hamstrung by similar opposition as well as complications created by Britains vote to leave the European Union.
The White House has refused to give up, however, as it weighs the stakes of a system of multilateral deals largely invented by the US after the second world war. Before he left for his summer vacation, Obamapromised one last attempt to ratify TPP in the lame-duck session of Congress before he leaves office.
We are part of a global economy. Were not reversing that, Obama said in a press conference earlier this month. When he returns to the White House on Sunday, salvaging TPP is near the top of his remaining agenda, with 30 events planned around the county to help persuade wavering lawmakers.
His would-be successor had a very different message at a manufacturing facility in suburban Detroit earlier this month. In a facility where work is being done on a rocket for a future Nasa mission to Mars, Clinton rejected much of TPPs globalist philosophy.
Its true that too often, past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that did not pan out, Clinton told about 500 union workers and supporters. Those promises now ring hollow.
I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she said. I oppose it now, Ill oppose it after the election, and Ill oppose it as president.
The speech marked a dramatic shift for Clinton, who long supported the agreement and helped orchestrate negotiations as Obamas first secretary of state. She has made another awkward reversal on the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), negotiated by George HW Bush and enacted in the 1990s by her husband, former president Bill Clinton.