In addition to providing a glimpse into the internal, and often confrontational, dialogue that took place within the Clinton campaign on topics ranging from Hillary's email server, to coordination and collusion with the media, to the planning how to attack Bernie Sanders, to the fascinating strife and conflicts of interest within the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, the Podesta leaks have also been instrumental in providing the public with insight into Hillary's flip-flopping views on the TPP. Indeed, as the WSJ put it recently, a running question through the presidential race has been whether Hillary Clinton is sincere in saying she opposes the 12-nation Asian trade deal that is one of the Obama administration’s top overseas priorities.
As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton praised the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it the “gold standard” of trade deals. But that was before she jumped into the presidential race. Organized labor, liberal activists and others want to scuttle TPP, so if Mrs. Clinton remained supportive, she risked a political backlash.
This is what the Podesta files have revealed so far: on Oct. 8, 2015, Hillary Clinton said she opposed the trade pact, a position that proved helpful in keeping her coalition intact and beating back a primary challenge from Vermont’s liberal senator, Bernie Sanders. That wasn’t an easy call. A new batch of hacked emails illustrates divisions within her staff about how to handle one of the most delicate issues of the race.
Five days before Mrs. Clinton’s announcement, her top advisers were divided about what she should do, with some fearing that opposition to the trade pact would look like a blatant “flip-flop.”
She has to be for TPP*. She called it the "gold standard" of trade agreements. I think opposing that would be a huge flip flop. She can say that as President she would work to change it. She can say that it can be better. But I think she should support it.
That produced the following reply from Jake Sullivan, the Clinton campaign's top foreign policy advisor: ”I agree with you on TPP but others (including on this email!) feel strongly to the contrary.” The exchange ends with campaign manager Robby Mook noting that labor wouldn’t stand for her endorsing the trade deal.
“TPP would be lethal with labor. We’d loose [sic] Afscme and likely SEIU as well.” As the WSJ points out, that calculation apparently carried the day.
To be sure, the TPP came up during the last debate in Las Vegas, where Hillary Clinton said the following about the trade deal: “Well, first, let me say, number one, when I saw the final agreement for TPP, I said I was against it. She added that “it didn’t meet my test. I’ve had the same test. Does it create jobs, raise incomes and further our national security? I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president."
What she really meant is that she had realized that backing her previous stance, and supporting the TPP, would likely cost her millions of union votes. The irony, however, is that if Hillary is elected president, she will almost certainly revert back to some TPP formulation, especially since it is in the best interest of big business.
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Fast forward to today, when thanks to the latest set of Wikileaks released today, we find intimate details involving Obama's negotiations of the TPP, and learn that none other than George Soros and his Open Society Foundation was keen on being a key influencing factor in the outcome of TPP negotiations regarding at least one country, allegedly the most important one - Malaysia.
Recall that all the TPP fundamentally is, is a treaty that is meant to keep China in check by providing preferential treatment to legacy Chinese trade partners with the US to prevent them from pulling a "Duterte", and realigning with Beijing. Of these, Malaysia was the most important "link" in the TPP.
As a reminder, ever since July of 2015, Malaysia has found itself in an intricate web of corruption involving its sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, which stretches from Goldman Sachs as key enabler of years of fraud and embezzlement (in exchange for hefty fees) reaching all the way to the very top - Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Razak, seen here in December 2014 golfing with president Obama:
Per the memo:
In July 2015, after an exposé by the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Najib foiled an attempt by the Task Force investigating the sovereign wealth fund 1MDB to charge and detain him for having received almost $700 million diverted from this fund that he controls into his personal bank account. Swiss investigators working on this case estimate that more than $4 Billion has been misappropriated through “systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures."... The new Attorney-General has unilaterally cleared Mr. Najib of wrongdoing and proposes life-imprisonment for whistle-blowers under the Official Secrets Act and punishment for journalists who refuse to reveal their sources.
The attacks on Obama's administration begin from the very top of the leaked memo:
"the Obama administration appears to have made the Trans-Pacific Partnership the overriding priority of its engagement with Malaysia. In doing so, the administration has made visible compromises on principle that have set back Malaysia’s difficult transition to democracy. In a region that his home to 240 million Muslims, it has sacrificed the moderate, democratic Muslim agenda to collaborate with a regime riddled with corruption and abuse of power. It has set back the fight against human trafficking by compromising the credibility of its own chief instrument in that struggle."
A reckoning of the cost of those compromises puts to rest any notion that the TPP is anything like a ‘gold standard’, 21st century trade agreement. Instead, it will be a negative chapter in the history of US-Malaysia relationship, not just because of its content but because of the circumstances in which it has been secured in Malaysia. The TPP, if it is finally ratified, will set back reforms much needed by the Malaysian economy and the political system.
As a result, "the administration’s engagement with Prime Minister Najib Razak has damaged US credibility in the region."
Disturbingly, we find that while the WSJ has been trying to get to the bottom of the pervasive corruption in Malaysia's government, said corruption may have been enabled by none other than Obama's administration:
Malaysia received more TPP carve-outs than any other TPP member country. These carve outs over government procurement, SOE’s and bumiputera preferences constitute an exemption for key domains of the bumiputera policy, an extensive set of racial preferencesjustified on racial supremacist grounds, through which UMNO exerts control of Malaysia’s huge state sector. It translates this control into political power through kickbacks, patronage, vote buying or direct misappropriation of funds as seen in 1MDB.
In an odd twist of events, liberal billionaire George Soros accuses Obama of supporting racism, corruption, kickbacks, patronage and "vote buying", just so Obama could assure the passage of his landmark trade deal. Curiously, while in the past Soros has been steadfastly supportive of Obama, in this case the Open Society Foundation openly lashes out at the US president, and goes so far as accusing Obama of being a puppet of Najib, who has significant influence over Obama as "Mr. Najib is the only hope that the TPP will be signed"
History, and tomorrow’s newspapers, may look poorly on the administrations dealings with Najib
The most damaging effect of the Obama administration’s apparent mono-focus on the TPP in its policy towards Malaysia has been the unnecessary leverage this has given Najib with the US administration. The TPP has few friends in Malaysia. It is opposed by the majority of the Malaysian population, by the ruling party and the Opposition. To the US, Mr. Najib is the only hope that the TPP will be signed. This gives him leverage at a time when his leadership has crossed the line into open criminality at home and he is under investigation abroad. For Malaysians, the TPP and Mr. Obama have come to be identified with Mr. Najib’s administration.
As a result, Soros had the following recommendations for Obama (and Podesta, thus Hillary's administration as Obama was largely a figurehead in march 2016) :
Make the TIP Report independent of political designs
The administration’s adoption of the TPP as the cornerstone of its engagement with Malaysia may have led it to miss the opportunity to exercise leadership on democracy and the rule of law. These values have never been more relevant, whether with China’s growing influence or Islamic radicalism in view.
US leadership in Southeast Asia is based on its promotion and underwriting of a rule-based international order. Such leadership, to be credible, needs to also be consistent on matters of fundamental principle.
The United States’ credibility on human trafficking will be but the first casualty of this approach if the TIP Report is not freed from ‘political interference.’ If the standards or rules it offers on fundamental human rights (and economic freedom, in the case of the TPP) are so transparently self-serving, the US will be seen to have less to offer the region than China, with its ‘win-win’, investment driven formula of engagement.
More importantly, the Soros foundation advised Obama to dissociate from Najib, and thus Malaysia:
Dissociate from Najib…soon
The administration should consider a plan to distance itself from Mr Najib. The open scandal around Najib has spiraled out of control and his position is unsustainable. He is determined to remain in power but can only do so by brute force. If he does ‘survive,’ it will have been by destroying all independent institutions. A focus on the TPP may have lulled the administration into missing the trajectory of this crisis. The administration should understand where the Najib bus is headed, and find a place to get off soon rather than later.
Finally, while this particular hypothetical scenario has yet to play out, should Obama and/or Hillary heed Soros' advice, buying Malaysian CDS or shorting local stocks may be the appropriate trade here:
If Najib is forced to step down it could be a chaotic, potentially violent process. Najib is likely to use the emergency security powers he has prepared for himself. He may try to divert the challenge by sparking racial conflict as he has done before. There will be a leadership vacuum. Anwar could play a critical role negotiating a peaceful return to constitutional government and preventing civil strife. Mr. Anwar could also be instrumental in forming a new government. It is important that the liberal and plural values that he stands for be protected.
The memo raises many questions: just how far does Soros' influence stretch in determining US foreign policy, if not so much under Obama then certainly with Hillary, with whom he has a far better relationship; another question is if Soros' accusations are true, then how and why did Obama cross so many ethical and moral lines just to pass a "secret" global trade deal, which so many have voiced reservations against. Finally, while Hillary is against the TPP as of her latest "flip-flop", will she revert back to her default state once elected president, and if so, just how much leverage will Razaj - and Malaysian special interests - have over US foreign and domestic policy to assure the treaty is implemented?