Martin O'Malley Seizes on Hillary Clinton's Vulnerability on Trans-Pacific Partnership

The former Maryland governor targets what he calls “bad trade deals” in a new video.

Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland, gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012.

Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Martin O'Malley may have found his opening against Hillary Clinton. 

On Tuesday, the former Maryland governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate's political action committee released a new video that, while never mentioning Clinton by name, drew a sharp distinction between O'Malley and the former secretary of state on the subject of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. 

"We need to stop entering into bad trade deals," O'Malley says in the video. "I'm for trade, and I'm for good trade deals, but I'm against bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We need to focus on making our economy more sustainable, more circular, and making ourselves strong here at home."

It's no mystery why the TPP, as it is commonly known, is the ad's subject. Hillary Clinton has been under pressure from progressives to pull her support for the emerging trade deal, which she helped to negotiate as secretary of state and championed as recently as November 2012, when she declared in a speech in Australia, “we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. ... This TPP sets 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. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”

Since then, however, opposition from labor unions and the liberal wing of the party, has put Clinton in a bind. With Congress last week passing fast-track authorization for the president on deals like the TPP, the outcry from the left has grown louder with every passing day.

And on Tuesday, Clinton cast herself as a skeptic of the deal. 

"Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security," Clinton said.  "And we have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive."

On his website, meanwhile, O'Malley is devoting more screen time to the TPP. 

"Congressional leaders just reached a deal on a 'trade promotion authority' bill that would give them the power to immediately vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. This 'fast track' authority would deny Congress the ability to amend yet another bad trade deal," text on the the website reads. "We must stop entering into bad trade deals that hurt middle class wages and ship middle class jobs overseas. And we certainly shouldn’t be fast tracking failed deals."

While O'Malley says he will decide on whether to challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination at the end of May, the trade deal has given him a way to distinguish himself from his potential rival, even if he never calls her out directly. 

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