US Elections 2016

Trump vows to rip up global trade pacts

Speaking at a campaign stop in Monessen, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Mr Trump attacked globalisation and free trade.
Speaking at a campaign stop in Monessen, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Mr Trump attacked globalisation and free trade.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He also pledges to label China a currency manipulator and slap tariffs on its goods

MONESSEN (Pennsylvania) • Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed on Tuesday to rip up international trade deals and start an unrelenting offensive against Chinese economic practices, framing his contest with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton as a choice between hard-edge nationalism and the policies of "a leadership class that worships globalism".

Speaking in western Pennsylvania, Mr Trump threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and pledged to label China a currency manipulator and impose punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.

He attacked Mrs Clinton on her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact negotiated by the Obama administration, and challenged her to pledge that she would void the agreement in its entirety. Noting Mrs Clinton had backed free trade agreements like Nafta in the past, Mr Trump warned: "She will betray you again."

At a rally later in the day in eastern Ohio, he attacked the TPP in more provocative terms, saying it was a "rape of our country".

In his address, he rejected the standard view that countries benefit by importing goods, arguing that globalisation helped "the financial elite", while leaving "millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache".

LOOK WHO'S TALKING?

With all of his personal experience profiting from making products overseas, Trump's the perfect expert to talk about outsourcing.

SENATOR SHERROD BROWN OF OHIO, a Democrat who is viewed as a potential running mate for Mrs Clinton, attacking Mr Trump's credibility as a free trade critic.

It is a critique that has been levelled for years, mainly by a small group of liberal economists who have gained little traction even on the Democratic side.

Mr Trump, as president, would have significant authority to raise trade barriers, and his speech included his most detailed account to date of his plans to do so, saying that he would pull the United States from Nafta if Mexico and Canada did not agree to renegotiate it.

But it is far from clear that any president has the power to reverse globalisation. Under existing law, Mr Trump could impose only tariffs on specific imports. The most likely effect would be to shift production to other low-cost nations.

The language and location of Mr Trump's speech encapsulated his aspirational strategy for the general election: His greatest source of support has been white, working- class men, and his campaign hopes to compete in traditionally Democratic-leaning states, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, to offset his deep unpopularity with Hispanic voters and women, which may put swing states like Florida and Colorado out of reach.

For the second time in two weeks, he spoke carefully from a script. Still, he could not resist the occasional ad-libbed line to skewer Mrs Clinton or boast of his own achievements.

Mr Trump's speech drew rebukes from two sides: The Clinton campaign attacked his credibility as a critic of free trade and deployed Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a Democrat who is viewed as a potential running mate for Mrs Clinton, to accuse Mr Trump of hypocrisy.

"With all of his personal experience profiting from making products overseas, Trump's the perfect expert to talk about outsourcing," Mr Brown said, reciting a list of Trump products, from suits to picture frames, that he said were made in other countries. "We know just in my state alone where Donald Trump could have gone to make these things," he added.

Mr Trump also drew a cold response from traditionally Republican-leaning interests for his heated attacks on international trade agreements.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which spends millions of dollars in federal elections, almost entirely in support of Republican candidates, criticised Mr Trump's speech on Twitter and claimed that his policies would hurt the economy.

"Even under a best-case scenario, Trump's tariffs would strip us of at least 3.5 million jobs," the group wrote in one Twitter message.

NE W YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Trump vows to rip up global trade pacts'. Print Edition | Subscribe