WASHINGTON – Republican Jeb Bush on Wednesday bashed Democratic 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton for voicing reservations about overseas trade talks, a rare issue on which the White House enjoys support from Republicans, with many Democrats opposed.
Bush, the former Florida governor who is also expected to jump into the presidential race, said Clinton backed foreign trade agreements as secretary of state but has grown reticent now that she is seeking the Democratic nomination.
The U.S. Congress is debating whether to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The White House says the TPP would open up new markets to U.S. exports and help businesses compete abroad.
But many Democrats and their supporters, including labor unions, say free-trade deals help big corporations at the expense of American jobs.
On Tuesday, Clinton said any trade deal “has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security.” Bush called those tests “poison pills” that amount to a change of position.
“I haven’t changed in my view even though Hillary Clinton has,” Bush wrote in a post on the blog publishing site Medium. “It is time to move forward as even recent Democratic presidents have recognized — and Sec. Clinton shouldn’t stand in the way for political gain.”
A Clinton spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bush’s post.
The TPP would set trade rules and common standards and cut tariffs between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. Lawmakers last week introduced legislation to give Obama “fast-track” authority. This would require Congress to vote for or against a trade deal, without the opportunity to amend it.
Republicans have found themselves in the unusual position of defending the White House.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who is seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and influential Rep. Paul Ryan wrote an opinion piece dated Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal asking colleagues to approve fast-track authority.
But many of Obama’s fellow Democrats say trade deals make it easier for American companies to move jobs to countries with lower labor costs.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who is considering challenging Clinton for the nomination, said in an email to supporters that opposing the Asia deal was “common sense.”
Obama said last week that any trade deal he reached would benefit U.S. workers.