(CN) – Following up former Vice President Joe Biden’s entrance into the 2020 Democratic primary as an instant frontrunner, Senator Bernie Sanders made an appeal to union voters Monday with a policy announcement that put his platform in sharp relief.
Sanders noted that he was the only presidential candidate to vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement — an international deal that President Donald Trump promised to scuttle and did not.
“In 2016, Trump promised he would substantially reduce the trade deficit, stop the outsourcing of American jobs, and rip up NAFTA,” Sanders said in a statement. “He lied about all three.”
Promising to run a positive campaign, the Vermont senator avoided mentioning that Biden voted for NAFTA when it first passed in 1993.
“Since Trump has been in office, our trade deficit in goods has shot up to a record-breaking $891 billion,” Sanders continued. “He has given out $50 billion in government contracts to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. He passed tax cuts that reward companies for offshoring even more jobs. And now more than 185,000 American jobs have been shipped overseas under his watch.”
Sanders called for his rivals to join him in demanding an executive order that would end federal contracts to corporations that outsource U.S. jobs, repeal Trump’s tax breaks rewarding companies that move their factories overseas, and label China a currency manipulator.
The Vermont senator also called to “renegotiate all of our unfair trade deals” and to keep Wall Street executives from serving as the U.S. trade representative, a post Trump filled with his appointment of former Skadden Arps partner Robert Lighthizer.
At least rhetorically, and sometimes in practice, Trump shares Sanders’ hostility toward international trade deals — if for different reasons.
Two years ago, Sanders praised Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation deal brokered by President Barack Obama also known as the TPP.
“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone,” Sanders said at the time.
Hillary Clinton had backed Obama’s treaty in 2016 on the grounds that it beefed up labor, environmental and intellectual-property protections in countries with otherwise spotty human rights records.
Scuttling the deal removed economic incentives keeping human-rights violators in line, and it has been blamed as a factor in Brunei’s enactment of a draconian law proscribing capital punishment for homosexuality.
While Obama and Biden pushed for the TPP, Trump and Sanders opposed the deal as unfair to U.S. workers.
Sanders has criticized the TPP’s failure to include unions during closed-door negotiations with transnational corporations. He tore into Trump’s embrace of the issue, consistent with his “America First” rhetoric of nationalism and isolationism, as empty posturing.
“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 Monday.
Sanders’ announcement comes as 2020 candidates have tried to woo unions to endorse their campaigns.
Biden landed his first major union endorsement of the election today with the International Association of Firefighters, inspiring an angry early-morning tweet from the president.
“The Dues Sucking firefighters leadership will always support Democrats, even though the membership wants me,” Trump tweeted.