The big political news yesterday was that Hillary Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Because … um …  reasons:

I’m continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what’s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we’re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers.  But based on what I know so far, I can’t support this agreement ….
I still believe in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was Secretary of State. 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.

Now, sure, the mainstream media is going to point out the 45 times that Clinton as secretary of state supported the TPP.  And they’re going to point out that the agreement will bolster the U.S. pivot to East Asia, which was a key part of Clinton’s rebalancing strategy, which was one of her biggest accomplishments as secretary of state. And they’re going to point out that the objection she voiced about drug companies seems way off base:

[T]he final version of the TPP wound up being less friendly to big drug companies than the version US negotiators proposed. If Clinton was concerned about the TPP being too friendly to big drug companies, the final version should have made her more, not less, comfortable, than the “gold standard” version she once praised.

But, to be fair, Clinton is right that the TPP does not cover currency manipulation. And to be fair, she laid down this marker on the TPP six whole months ago. Never mind that no U.S. trade deal was ever going to cover currency manipulation because it would restrict U.S. monetary policy. Never mind that in the four years Clinton was secretary of state she never once brought up currency manipulation as something that should be tackled under the auspices of the TPP.

Because once you thinking about it, there are an awful lot of other things that the Trans-Pacific Partnership doesn’t cover beyond currency manipulation:

  • so-called “mode IV services,” permitting workers from TPP member countries to work in other TPP member countries;
  • the complete elimination of agricultural barriers and duties;
  • a helpful explainer of Canadian dairy politics for non-Canadians, because it makes no sense to the rest of us;
  • democracy promotion within nondemocratic TPP members like Vietnam;
  • proper border demarcation for the South China Sea;
  • a cure for cancer.

So, yeah, the TPP is a flawed agreement, and I suspect that its supporters will overhype its benefits in the debate that Congress will have going forward. It got me wondering whether I should reconsider my support for TPP and even trade promotion authority.

But when I have these doubts about TPP, I remember some wise words about the nature of trade negotiations:

It’s safe to say that the TPP won’t be perfect — no deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be — but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers.

And this puts it in perfect context. No trade deal was going to include anything about currency manipulation. We live in an imperfect world, and TPP is an imperfect but nonetheless useful deal. And that’s the best way to think about this trade deal.

The author of that quote, on page 78 of “Hard Choices” sure seems to know what she’s talking about. I only wish that rebooted Hillary Clinton had read those words announcing her position.