As a Congressman, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) opposed and has been critical of NAFTA. He led the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He fought against permanent normal trade relations with China and was vindicated when that status backfired.

As a presidential contender, Sanders is now calling on all candidates to end contracts that outsource American jobs, renegotiate America’s trade deals to protect against outsourcing, label China a currency manipulator, and keep Wall Street out of the office of U.S. Trade Representative. Also, to repeal Trump’s tax cuts.

Effectively, he is calling on all presidential candidates to adopt sweeping trade reforms. That includes his Democratic rivals, but also includes President Trump.

While Sanders and Trump have some significant overlap on the issue that America’s current trade deals aren’t in its best interest, they have strong disagreements on what international trade ought to look like, and the trade policy Sanders unveiled shows that in stark terms.

“For once in your life, keep your campaign promises … go back to the drawing board,” Sanders said at a campaign stop in Warren, Michigan. “The NAFTA treaty that Trump re-negotiated with Mexico will still allow companies like General Motors to send our jobs to Mexico.”

The proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would replace NAFTA, but Sanders criticized its lack of job protections for Americans. He implored the president to not send the treaty to Congress for ratification without those protections.

This shows an area where the 2020 Democratic field think they can apply the screws to the president’s reelection bid. Trump pledged to take a more protectionist posture in trade to preserve jobs in manufacturing and industry, but his efforts have been slow and underwhelming. At the same time, his broader strategy of trade wars as good ideas has hurt manufacturing as steel and aluminum tariffs have risen.

“We need a president who will actually fight for American workers, keep their promises, and stand up to the giant corporations who close down plants to send jobs overseas,” Sanders said in a statement.

Considering part of the proposal is a repeal of Trump’s signature economic policy, it seems unlikely his campaign will back Sanders’ trade proposal.


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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