[Vicki Needham| March 3, 2016 |The Hill]
The Vermont senator blasted Clinton’s record of supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement, establishing trade relations with China and the changing of her stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), noting he has vigorously opposed those deals.
“Secretary Clinton and I have very, very different points of view,” Sanders said during a press conference in Lansing, Mich., ahead of Tuesday’s primary contest in the state.
He called trade “an issue of huge consequence.”
Sanders has sought to position himself as the candidate fighting for U.S. workers on trade, while painting Clinton as a supporter of big business and Wall Street.
“She was very, very wrong, and millions of families around this country have been suffering as a result of those disastrous trade agreements,” he said while surrounded by Michigan workers who talked about how they lost their jobs to expanded trade.
Sanders blamed the trade agreements of the past 25 years for Detroit’s fall from the wealthiest big city in the country in 1960, bolstered by employment at General Motors, to one of the poorest now.
From 1998 to 2011, half of Detroit’s autoworkers lost their jobs, while Michigan has shed one-third of its manufacturing jobs, he said.
“The most significant reason for this economic decline is our failed trade policies,” Sanders said.
Trade deals have been promoted by corporations that don’t want to pay U.S. workers a living wage or health benefits or negotiate with trade unions, Sanders said.
“What they wanted to do was shut down plants in America, go to Mexico, go to China, go to desperately poor countries, hire people for pennies an hour and then bring their products back into America,” he said.
Sanders said he would push to reinvigorate the nation’s manufacturing base and keep jobs here.
“It is time for a change in trade policies. It is time to tell corporate America in a very forceful way that they are no longer going to throw American workers on the street and build shiny new plants in China, Mexico or low-wage countries,” Sanders said.
During the past week, Sanders has dished out a series of attacks on Clinton’s trade stance.
“She has supported many disastrous trade agreements,” he said.
He suggested that Clinton is opposing the TPP because she is running for president against him, and that business groups are banking on the former secretary of State to change her mind and help push the TPP through Congress if she wins the White House.
“She’s voiced a lot of support over the years for TPP,” Sanders said.
Clinton recently outlined her trade stance, saying agreements must raise standards for U.S. workers.
“We have to set a high bar for any new trade agreements and only support them if they will create good jobs, raise wages and advance our national security,” she said.
Clinton said she opposed the TPP “when it failed to meet those tests, and would oppose future agreements if they failed to meet that bar.”
President Obama is calling for Congress to pass the TPP this year before he leaves office.
Congressional leaders have said that the trade agreement won’t likely be considered until after the November elections.