Republican Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered his most detailed economic vision to date, laying out a muscular, seven-point plan for enacting his “America First” agenda that starts with obliterating bad trade deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to declare our economic independence once again.”
Trump vowed to reopen NAFTA to negotiate changes in the trade bloc that includes Canada and Mexico. If those countries do not play ball, Trump said, he would submit notice under terms of the treaty to withdraw.
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“I’m going to tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers,” Trump said during remarks at an aluminum facility in Monessen, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. “And I don’t mean just a little bit better, I mean a lot better,” he added.
Trump also pledged an immediate withdrawal of America from the yet-to-be-ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership pact with 11 other countries. He said he would appoint the “toughest and smartest” trade negotiators to protect the interests of American workers and direct the commerce secretary to identify every trade violation by other countries. He said he would declare China a currency manipulator and bring trade actions against that country in the U.S. courts and at the World Trade Organization.
Anticipating the inevitable warnings from elites that his policies would trigger a trade war, Trump said his critics have it backward.
“We already have a trade war, and we’re losing badly — badly,” he said. “Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible trade deal after another — from NAFTA to China to South Korea … A Trump administration will end that war by getting a fair deal for the American people.”
Trump’s speech drew praise from longtime critics of U.S. trade policy. Kevin Kearns, president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, called it a “home run, grand slam” and said Trump did a good job educating Americans about how elites installed the modern system of globalism for their benefit at the expense of average workers.
“I thought it was the best speech he’s given, of the three major speeches he’s delivered,” said Kearns, whose organization represents small American manufacturers. “It was certainly a lot more specific than other speeches.”
Speaking at an aluminum manufacturer near Pittsburgh in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania, Trump also channeled last week’s Brexit referendum in which British voters decided to break away from the European Union.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to declare our economic independence once again,” he said. “That means voting for Donald Trump. I’ll do it, no doubt about — not even a little doubt. It also means reversing two of the worst legacies of the Clinton years.”
Trump quoted the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln, and he referenced trade-protection measures taken by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He cited statistics indicating the United States imports nearly $800 billion more in goods than it exports — about half of that deficit is due to trade with China. He linked the growing trade gap to slower economic growth since 1993 that he said has cost America 20 million jobs.
“This is not some natural disaster,” he said. “It is political and politician-made disaster … Trade reform, and the negotiation of great trade deals, is the quickest way to bring our jobs back to our country.”
Trump tied Clinton — and her husband Bill — to both NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO. He also hammered her over her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, taking credit for her flip-flop on the issue.
“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,” he said. “And I will tell you, it was the same shame that she had recently where she was sort of forced into saying ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ which she didn’t want to say but she was shamed into that one.”
But Clinton’s opposition to the trade pact is a temporary matter of electoral expedience, Trump said. “Have no doubt, she will immediately approve it if it is put before her. And that is guaranteed.”
Trump noted that Clinton once called the TPP the “gold standard” of international trade agreements and praised it on 45 separate occasions. He predicted that as president, she would attempt to side-step her professed skepticism by seeking cosmetic changes and then declaring it fixed.
“There is no way to ‘fix’ the TPP,” he said, challenging reporters to ask whether Clinton would commit to withdrawing from the pact on day one. “We need bilateral trade deals. We do not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down like TPP does.”