Campaigning Clinton has qualms about trade deal

CONCORD, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed qualms Tuesday about the sweeping trade deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Pacific nations.

Without weighing in for or against the agreement, Clinton told students and teachers New Hampshire Technical Institute that the country needs to focus more on domestic production and any trade deal must be good for U.S. jobs and wages.

A week into her campaign for the 2016 Democratic president nomination, Clinton took a different stand on trade than she did as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, when she called the Trans-Pacific Partnership being fast-tracked by Congress “the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”

Clinton has been dissociating herself in measured ways from the Obama administration’s agenda as she attempts to carve her own path in the campaign.

Her campaign previously said Clinton would be closely watching efforts by the administration to complete the TPP. Her comments Tuesday were her first on the subject on the campaign trail.

“We need to build things, too,” she said. “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive,” while getting back to “a much more focused effort, in my opinion, to try to produce those capacities here at home.”

Even so, she stopped short of rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership — an agreement opposed by many manufacturing unions.

As Obama’s secretary of state, she led the administration’s negotiations with nations involved in the pact.

Labor officials have raised concerns about Clinton’s previous support for trade pacts that they say harmed American workers. As first lady, she supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying in 1996 that the pact was “proving its worth.” But as a presidential candidate in 2007, she called the deal “a mistake,” and proposed a “trade timeout” as well as the selection of a prosecutor to enforce current deals before entering into any new agreements.

Clinton’s comments are part of an economic message designed to appeal to the liberal wing of her party. In Concord, she appeared to have union voters in mind as she stressed her support for expanding American manufacturing and programs to give workers the necessary skills for the evolving workplace.

“Some people say, they say forget manufacturing, we’re never going to bring it back,” she said. “That’s not the way it appears to me.”

In her first New Hampshire visit since launching her candidacy, she also attended a private house party Monday night at the home of Sylvia Larsen, a former state Senate Democratic leader and longtime Clinton supporter.

On Tuesday afternoon, Clinton addressed 40 to 50 elected officials at the state Democratic Party headquarters, where she again called for a constitutional amendment to get “this corporate and unchecked” money out of politics and slammed Republicans’ economic policies.

“We want people to get ahead and stay ahead,” she said. “The policies on the other side are what got us into the mess in the first place.”

Most of New Hampshire’s prominent Democrats are already backing Clinton’s candidacy, including many of Obama’s top 2008 state supporters.

“I was really anxious to get to New Hampshire,” she told supporters in Claremont on Monday night. “I just called Bill and I said ‘You won’t guess, I am on my way from Keene to Claremont.’ We have a pretty big part of our heart committed to New Hampshire.” The state’s early presidential primary helped revive the candidacies of Bill Clinton in 1992 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

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