The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

New VP pick Kaine getting in line in opposition to Pacific trade deal

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Timothy M. Kaine at a July 14 campaign rally in Annandale, Va. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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Sen. Timothy M. Kaine and Hillary Clinton once held very similar views on international trade deals — President Obama's signature Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal in particular. They liked the idea.

The senator’s vote in favor of fast-track authority for the TPP was a subject this past week in their discussions on him joining the ticket, a Clinton aide said.

“He agreed with her judgment that it fell short” of the test of protecting wages and national security, the Clinton aide said.

Kaine (D-Va.) had reserved final judgment on the pact despite that vote last year, which came months before Clinton had announced her opposition to the deal she had helped negotiate.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, had called the TPP the "gold standard" of multinational trade and incentive packages when she was Obama's secretary of state.

Kaine is expected to state his full opposition to the pact soon. Kaine and Clinton make their first campaign appearance together as running mates Saturday in Florida. They will accept the Democratic nomination for president and vice president next week.

In the past, Kaine has had nice things to say about the TPP — as recently as Thursday — that sound much like what Clinton said about the pact before she reversed course last year.

Kaine was one of 13 Senate Democrats who voted in June 2015 to grant Obama "fast-track" authority to push the deal through Congress.

"Why would I not give to this president the same tools to negotiate a trade deal that other presidents had?” Kaine told reporters Thursday, the day before he was picked to be Clinton's running mate.

But the TPP has become a liberal lightning rod that makes support for it untenable in the presidential race this year, even though Obama asked Democratic senators to back him on the first vote on the fast-tracking. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump also opposes the TPP and uses it as a stand-in for complaints about loss of American jobs and international stature.

During a scrum with reporters after a roundtable discussion with Muslims on Thursday in Sterling, Va., Kaine had this to say about TPP:

"I see much in it to like. I think it's an upgrade of labor standards, I think it's an upgrade of environmental standards, I think it's an upgrade of intellectual-property protections."

He added: "I do see at least right now there's one element that I still have some very serious concerns about, and that is the dispute resolution."

Clinton has also identified that aspect as a problem.

Still, Kaine said, "Much of it I see as a significant improvement over the status quo."

That sounds rather like what Clinton had said in 2010 in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations.

"We want to realize the benefits from greater economic integration. In order to do that, we have to be willing to play," the then-secretary of state said. "We're pursuing a regional agreement with the nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we know that that will help create new jobs and opportunities here at home."