DES MOINES, Iowa – Bernie Sanders told steelworkers at a boisterous meeting in a union hall here on Tuesday that a proposed 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal would continue “disastrous” policies that have shuttered factories and cost millions of good-paying jobs in the United States.
“Everyone in this room understands what these disastrous trade agreements are all about. They were written by corporate America to benefit corporate America, people who could care less about working families,” Sanders said at the United Steelworkers of America Local 310L union hall. “The simple truth is, and it’s indisputable, these trade agreements have been a disaster for working families in this country and they have benefited the CEOs of major corporations.”
Sanders is leading the opposition in Congress against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be the biggest trade pact in history. He also was at the forefront in earlier battles against the North American Free Trade Agreement and permanent normal trade relations with China — trade agreements that Secretary Clinton supported which have led to the loss of more than 30,000 good-paying jobs in Iowa. “Can you be a great country when everything we buy is made in China?” he asked the union workers.
In the closing days before Iowans go to precinct caucuses to begin the process of picking a Democratic nominee for president, Sanders is in a neck-and-neck contest in Iowa with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton has praised past trade agreements and once called the Pacific trade deal “the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” Last Oct. 8, however, she said that “as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”
At a news conference outside the union hall, Sanders was asked about trade. “You are looking at a senator and former congressman who has led the effort since his first day in Congress back in the early 1990s against disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China and today against the TPP. My record on trade is very, very different than Secretary Clinton’s. I am glad that after talking about how good the TPP would be, finally, under great pressure, she decided to oppose it. But I think it is a real area of disagreement.
“I have opposed all of these trade agreements. We have lost millions of jobs as corporations have shut down in America, gone to China and other low-wage countries. If elected president, we will make fundamental changes to our trade policies. Our demand is that we create good-paying jobs in the United States of America, not China, not Mexico, not other low wage countries.
“So those are areas where I think there are real differences of opinion: our views on trade, our views on Social Security and ultimately our view as to which candidate is prepared to stand up to the greed and the irresponsibility of Wall Street and corporate America, and create an economy that works for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires,” Sanders told reporters.