The Dems Take the Motor City for Round One of the Debates, and Trade Comes Up

Jesús Espinoza Press Secretary, AAM

On Tuesday night, 10 of the 24 Democratic candidates—Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Rep. John Delaney (Md.); former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.); former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas); Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio); Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.); and author Marianne Williamson—faced off in the third of many Democratic primary debates to come of the 2020 cycle.

The first debate saw sparse mentions of manufacturing, trade or China. The second? A little better, but not enough. With Motown as the backdrop last night, though, things were a little different.

Leading candidates Warren and Sanders both hit hard on trade, with Warren arguing that “for decades we have had a trade policy that has been written by giant multinational corporations to help giant multinational corporations. They have no loyalty to America.” She also came out against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), arguing it will lead to higher drug prices.

For his part, Sanders pointed out he voted against the original NAFTA agreement and Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China (PNTR), and said as president he would stop giving military contracts to companies that do not employ U.S. workers to manufacture their products.

“If anybody here thinks that corporate America gives one damn about the average American worker, you're mistaken,” he said. “If they can save 5 cents to Mexico or China or Vietnam, that's what they'll do.”

But not everybody put forth a tough trade stance. Keep on reading to see where all the candidates stood on these vital issues:

Gov. Steve Bullock: Although Gov. Bullock made it clear that he believes trade deals must keep workers in mind, he’s not convinced that tariffs are the way to go for farmers and manufacturers.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Remembering the poverty and desperation that factory closures caused in his community, Mayor Pete underlined the desperate need for skills training in our changing economy. Despite this, he gave, as AAM President Scott Paul said, an “insipid answer on tariffs.”

Former Rep. John Delaney: The award for the most tone-deaf candidate goes to Rep. Delaney. In a city destroyed by shoddy trade deals that have thrown workers under the bus for decades, Rep. Delaney proudly pointed out that he was the only candidate on the stage who supported the job-crushing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Talk about out of touch.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper: Despite acknowledging the threat China’s intellectual property theft poses for the U.S., the governor thinks tariffs are the wrong route to take. So much so that it seems like he’s got a new slogan, “Tariffs are for losers,” which he gleefully repeated throughout the night.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: The senior senator from Minnesota didn’t wade much into trade, but did make a pretty solid case as to why we need generous infrastructure investment now: the Flint water crisis. With lead polluting the Michigan city’s drinking water for years, it’s a reminder of how infrastructure investment is more than just making your commute smoother. It’s about public health and safety. Sen. Klobuchar committed to investing $1 trillion into America’s faltering infrastructure, all while creating union jobs in the process.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke: The former El Paso rocker recognized the importance of holding China accountable for its antimarket behavior, but repeated the tariffs-are-a-tax line. Nothing else to report here.

Rep. Tim Ryan: This son of Ohio knows a thing or two about manufacturing and why it matters. Armed with his newly released manufacturing plan, Rep. Ryan plans to create a U.S. chief manufacturing officer role in the executive. He also aims to take on China by out-competing it in green manufacturing. He envisions the Industrial Heartland’s shuttered factories coming to life with workers making everything from electric vehicles to solar panels. By capturing the market of the future from China’s grip, American factory workers can thrive.

Ryan did talk about a very specific trade issue during the debate — the Section 232 steel tariffs — arguing that Trump “bungled the whole thing.” But Ryan added that China “has been abusing the economic system for some time” and said a tough approach is needed. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders: A contrast to Rep. Delaney’s tone-deafness, Sen. Sanders didn’t mince words in condemning the trade policies that “threw [Detroit’s] workers out in the street” in favor of low-wage countries like China. His solution to companies abandoning American workers to avoid labor and environmental regulations? No federal contracts for those companies—a big deal, especially in the Beltway.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The Bay State senator, like Rep. Ryan, came prepared with a clear-cut plan: the Green Manufacturing Plan. Under her plan, the U.S. would see 1.2 million new green manufacturing jobs and invest $2 trillion in green research and exporting, further expanding the plan’s job creating potential. She also insists that trade deal negotiations must include input from unions, small businesses, small farms and human rights activists.

Marianne Williamson: Although Williamson didn’t touch on any of these issues much, other than the importance of addressing Flint’s water infrastructure crisis, she gave her personal touch to the debate as she’s wont to do.


Reposted from AAM