Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., now positioning himself as a progressive populist among potential 2016 presidential candidates, told USA Today that he differs from Hillary Clinton because he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement he said will “hollow out our middle class and middle class wages.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a proposed free trade accord between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries. Critics say the deal will provide corporate interests with sweeping powers to challenge banking and environmental regulations and other rules in special courts set up under the World Bank, and they argue the TPP will hurt American jobs by extending the ability of businesses to relocate facilities to countries involved in the agreement.

But just two years ago, there was no criticism to be heard when O’Malley discussed the TPP.

On May 8, 2013, O’Malley spoke before a trade conference hosted by the Council of Americas in Washington, D.C., where he was asked on camera about his perspective as a governor on the TPP and other trade deals pursued by the Obama administration. “I would hazard to guess that a majority of us [governors] believe that free trade, provided it’s fair — and that’s always the rub — is a net benefit for us. I believe that, at the risk of stating the painfully obvious, we’re all part of a global economy,” O’Malley said. “So it would seem to me, that to the extent that we can be proactive in concluding agreements with strategic partners, geographically, philosophically, then that is a benefit to us.”

Watch O’Malley’s comments below:

O’Malley also signed a letter with six other governors to President Obama about the TPP deal. The letter, sent on May 27, 2011, did not decry the potential impact on middle class jobs. Instead O’Malley and the other governors requested: “Among your priorities for these negotiations, we ask that you include very strong intellectual property rights provisions, consistent with U.S. law, for protecting the investment of our innovative, intellectual property-intensive sectors, such as biopharmaceuticals.”

View the letter here:

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O’Malley’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Hillary Clinton championed the TPP throughout her service as secretary of state. In 2012, speaking before a crowd in Annapolis, Maryland, that included O’Malley as a guest, Clinton declared, “This agreement is not just about eliminating barriers to trade, although that is crucial for boosting U.S. exports and creating jobs here at home.”

Politicians are on their way to potentially approving the TPP this year. Philip Morris International, Xerox, JP Morgan Chase, and Coca-Cola are among the dozens of major firms that have poured millions of dollars into a lobbying campaign to expedite the decision. Within the next month, insiders expect Congress to vote on Trade Promotion Authority, known as “fast track,” for TPP — legislation that would give the Obama administration authority to approve the deal with minimal congressional oversight, limiting debate over the final agreement and blocking any amendments to the deal.

Photo: Kathleen Lange/AP