MONESSEN, Pa. — While attacking Hillary Clintonand other career politicians, Donald Trump took aim Tuesday at two other prominent election targets: globalization and free trade.”Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very, very wealthy … but it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache,” Trump told supporters during a prepared speech targeting free trade in a nearly-shuttered former steel town in Pennsylvania.
In a speech devoted to what he called “How To Make America Wealthy Again,” Trump offered a series of familiar plans designed to deal with what he called “failed trade policies” — including rejection of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) with Pacific Rim nations and re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, withdrawing from it if necessary.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also said he would pursue bilateral trade agreements rather than multi-national deals like TPP and NAFTA.
Trump Goes After Trade Deals in Pa. Speech
In addition to appointing better trade negotiators and stepping up punishment of countries that violate trade rules, Trump’s plans would also target one specific economic competitor: China. He vowed to label China a currency manipulator, bring it before the World Trade Organization and consider slapping tariffs on Chinese imports coming into the U.S.
Clinton and other politicians, meanwhile, “watched on the sidelines as our jobs vanished and our communities were plunged into depression-level unemployment,” Trump said in a dusty old aluminum plant in Monessen, part of what was once known as “The Steel Valley” along the Monongahela River.
Echoing his mantra of “America First,” Trump vowed to use only American steel — and aluminum — on U.S. road, bridge, and construction projects, employing only American workers.
Trump attacked both Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, for past support of trade deals, including TPP. He also hit them over China’s admission to the World Trade Organization.
Hillary Clinton says she now opposes the Pacific Rim trade agreement and other “bad trade deals” that are hurting U.S. workers. Pledging to appoint a “trade prosecutor” during a speech in Ohio this week, Clinton vowed to go after “unfair trade practices like when China dumps cheap steel in our markets or uses weak rules of origin to undercut our car makers.”
A prominent Clinton supporter — Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio — called Trump a hypocrite, saying he has benefited from trade deals that have helped him sponsor clothing lines made in other countries. While Clinton has offered a “detailed plan to boost American manufacturing,” Brown said Trump has “high-priced accountants” who are “cashing checks from products that he’s had manufactured in other countries.”
During his speech in a warehouse stacked with pallets of aluminum parts, Trump said Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership only “when she saw my stance,” and predicted that she would still sign the trade pact if elected to office.
“Her whole career, she has betrayed the American worker,” Trump said.
Trump also scheduled a rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio, Tuesday night near the coal-rich West Virginia state line.
Trade and other global issues are resonating in blue-collar areas of Pennsylvania and Michigan, states that have gone Democratic in six straight presidential elections, as well as Ohio, generally considered a must-win for any Republican candidate.
Trump “talks about the economy only in the language of globalization,” said Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “It’s globalization that’s wrecking the American economy, and that’s how I’m going to fix it,” he said of Trump’s rhetoric.
Drezner added: “It’s a question as to whether people will actually vote on that.”
In western Pennsylvania, people have “endured incredible economic hardship” as manufacturing jobs move overseas, said Joseph DiSarro, who chairs the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. Trump’s message is well-received there, DiSarro said, adding that “globalization has really brought on unfair competition to the American worker” as businesses move jobs to low-wage, low-regulated countries.
In addition to the impact of globalization on trade, Trump has also criticized aspects of multi-lateral alliances like NATO and has said that European and Asian nations are not paying enough for U.S. defense assistance.