Presidential candidates pledge every four years that they want to do more to help American workers facing competition from around the globe. After these candidates take office, they have pursued more appeasing trade policies toward China, in order to keep a solid relationship with Beijing. However, during the 2016 election there has been expansive political distress over the loss of well-paid working class jobs to global competition. Additionally, China’s increasingly assertive military posture, advise that the next president could actually follow through on pledges to reform trade with China. Trump has gained much attention because of his aggressive rhetorical style in regards trade with China. Nonetheless we must also pay attention to Clinton’s big switch on free trade this election and how that effects her rhetorical style.
The Flip Flop
In the link above, Hillary Clinton praised TPP as a deal that “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” However, last fall, when the 12 participating nations announced they had finalized the agreement after years of negotiations, Clinton said she opposes it. Clinton began to criticize the agreements lack of a crackdown on currency manipulation and provisions to extend pharmaceutical drug companies’ patent protections in poorer countries. Later, in a speech given to 500 union workers and supporters she stated, “I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” she said. “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.” Although Clinton may be more politically savvy than Trump, Clinton’s flip-flop of support cramps her rhetorical style because many Americans already view her as untrustworthy.
The TPP agreement wasn’t the only free trade agreement that Clinton has changed her opinion on. She spoke in favor of NAFTA when her husband signed it into law during his presidency, but called it a “mistake” during her 2008 presidential campaign.
In order for Clinton to sway voters to support her trade policies concerning China , she must dwell on the fact that she is the more “stable” candidate because her mixed history on free trade speaks to the idea that she is untrustworthy. Clinton must gain the trust of the voters, so they will feel more inclined to trust that she will actually implement any policies she plan to impose on China once elected into office, and not “flip” her opinion.