Lansing Township — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders continued his push to win over Michigan voters Thursday morning by condemning trade agreements that he argues have negatively impacted millions of Americans.
The Vermont senator criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was implemented under President Bill Clinton, and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, which his opponent Hillary Clinton supported as U.S. Secretary of State and then opposed as her run for presidency began.
“These are policies which are resulting in the disappearance of the American middle class,” Sanders said Thursday during a press conference at a Hyatt hotel just outside the state’s capital. “These trade policies have been supported not just by Republicans but by too many Democrats.”
Sanders said trade policies supported by Clinton, who will host an event Friday regarding American job growth in Michigan, have been a “disaster.” Sanders said he agrees with Obama on several issues, but “strongly” disagrees with him on the TPP.
Michigan, Sanders said, has lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years primarily due to “failed trade policies,” including 43,000 jobs lost because of NAFTA.
“From the first days I was in Congress ... I understood that NAFTA and other trade policies were being written by corporate America for one reason,” he said. “And that is that corporate America made the decision that they didn’t want to pay workers in this country a living wage ... What they wanted to so was shut down plants in America, go to Mexico, go to China ... and then bring their products back into America.”
The TPP is a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries signed by political leaders, including President Barack Obama, a month ago after seven years of negotiations. The U.S. government has touted it as a way to “help increase Made-in-America exports” and “grow the American economy,” however some businesses and particularly unions have adamantly opposed the agreement.
Sanders was joined at the press conference by several union supporters who testified being negatively impacted by trade agreements.
Kim Ward, 50, a former UAW member and nearly 14-year employee of American Axle & Manufacturing, said she and other family members, including her now-deceased husband, left their jobs when their company moved some operations to Mexico.
“I stand with Senator Sanders because he is fighting,” said the Detroit resident. “He is standing for all of us working people.”
Sanders condemning the trade agreements came the morning after a speech at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center in Lansing, where he acknowledged that trade policy is “not a sexy topic” but linked the issue to lost automotive and other manufacturing jobs in Michigan and Detroit.
The Vermont U.S. senator, who won four of 11 state primaries on Tuesday and faces increasingly long odds in his quest to win the Democratic nomination, told The Detroit News on Wednesday night that he expects to do well in Michigan’s primary election March 8.