The Cable

Trump Accuses Clinton of Betraying American Workers

Trump outlines an protectionist American economic policy and promises to bring back long-lost manufacturing jobs.

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In his most substantive comments on trade policy to date, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump threatened to blow up the U.S. trade relationship with Asia, painted Hillary Clinton as a tool of the elites, and promised — without offering any details — to deliver long-departed manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

Speaking in Monessen, Pa. Tuesday, Trump said he would label China a currency manipulator. He said Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organization marked the  “the greatest jobs theft in history.” He threatened new tariffs against Chinese goods. In addition, he accused China of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S. intellectual property. He also attacked his Democratic rival for once supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal with 12 Pacific nations that would cover 40 percent of the world economy.

As President Barack Obama’s secretary of State, Clinton supported the deal. However, as Sen. Bernie Sanders used his opposition to the deal as a populist rallying cry on the campaign trail, Clinton flipped on TPP. China is not a signatory on the agreement, and Obama has argued that lack of an agreement would allow Beijing to write trade rules in Asia. Right now, China is currently negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Asian countries meant to rival the U.S trade deal.

“TPP would be the death blow for American manufacturing,” Trump said, according to prepared remarks. “It should be no surprise then that Hillary Clinton, according to Bloomberg, took a ‘leading part in drafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.’ She praised or pushed the TPP on 45 separate occasions, and even called it the ‘gold standard.’”

He then attacked Clinton of flip-flopping on the deal. “Hillary Clinton was totally for the TPP just a short while ago, but when she saw my stance, which is totally against, she was shamed into saying she would be against it too — but have no doubt, she will immediately approve it if it is put before her, guaranteed. She will do this just as she has betrayed American workers for Wall Street throughout her career.”

He also blamed China for the loss of manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh, a message that played well in the nearby town of Monessen. He did not cite the fact that the Steel City has rebounded with new jobs in the medical, technology, and financial services industry.

Trump also took aim at the North American Free Trade Agreement, which came into effect during President Bill Clinton’s plan. As first lady, Hillary Clinton had touted the benefits of the trade deal between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in history.” In typical Trump fashion, he promised Americans he could negotiate a better one, though he offered no details on how.

“And I don’t mean just a little bit better, I mean a lot better,” Trump said. “If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal.”

Withdrawing from NAFTA was part of the seven-point plan Trump unveiled Tuesday as part of what he described as a new push to create American jobs. He made the claim in spite of the fact that many mainstream economists believe the benefits of free trade — spurring economic growth, increasing overall employment, and saving consumers money — outweigh the sometimes severe job losses suffered by workers in fields like manufacturing. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders ran an unexpectedly tight race against Clinton by speaking of the same economic dislocation caused by free trade.

If Trump gets his way, the United States would move away from the current free trade model toward financial protectionism.

This was evident is his support for the Brexit, which has spooked financial markets and thrown the future of the European Union into doubt. Nearly all economists agree that Britain leaving the EU would be bad for both sides.

Trump doesn’t see it that way. In his prepared remarks, he said the Brexit allows Britons to “take back control of their economy, politics and border.”

Trump portrayed the Brexit as a competition between the haves and the have nots. It’s the same way he portrayed the upcoming election: ordinary Americans vs. Clinton, who represents the political and economic elite. According to Forbes, Trump, who made his fortune in real estate, is worth $4.5 billion. Forbes estimates Clinton’s wealth at more than $30 million.

“I was on the right side of that issue — with the people — while Hillary, as always, stood with the elites, and both she and President Obama predicted that one wrong,” he said. “Now it’s time for the American people to take back their future. That’s the choice we face. We can either give in to Hillary Clinton’s campaign of fear, or we can choose to believe In America.”

Photo credit: JEFF MITCHELL/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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