Kamala Harris says she ‘would not have voted for NAFTA’

May 13, 2019

Kamala Harris agrees with Donald Trump on at least one thing.

The Democrat candidate for president said that she would not have voted for NAFTA, placing her in alignment with the current commander in chief. Harris’ position sets her in opposition to both Hillary Clinton and primary rival Joe Biden, who supported NAFTA in the 1990s.

Harris and Trump agree

Harris made the rare admission Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. The California lawmaker said that she opposed the trade deal because “we need to do a better job” for American workers.

“We need to do a better job in terms of thinking about the priorities that should be more apparent now than perhaps they were then, which are issues like the climate crisis and what we need to build into these trade agreements,” Harris said.

Knowingly or not, Harris’s comments placed her on the same side as Trump, who made renegotiating trade deals to benefit American workers a major part of his campaign message and presidential agenda. NAFTA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and his wife struggled to defend it when she took on Trump unsuccessfully in the 2016 election.

Harris’s position puts her at odds with Clinton, who supported NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership before switching her position on both trade deals. A once unabashed supporter of free trade, Clinton ultimately pivoted in the heat of the 2016 campaign.

Trumps’ anti-trade deal campaign rhetoric tapped into resentment felt by working-class communities that saw millions of jobs leave the country to go overseas in a matter of mere decades, and Midwestern states in the Rust Belt swung to Trump to deliver a historic electoral upset.

It is now conventional wisdom that Democrats made a mistake by neglecting the hurt felt in the heartland, and the Democrats’ current frontrunner, Joe Biden, is thought to have a down-to-earth image that appeals to old-school union Democrats in the states that defected to Trump.

Watch Harris’ comments below:

Not the only skeptic

Harris would not say whether she concurred with Trump’s arguments about trade agreements “ripping off” working Americans, but did say that the rules in America have been written “to the exclusion of lifting up the middle class and working people.”

“There is no question that over many decades, the rules have been written in a way that have been to the exclusion of lifting up the middle class and working people in America,” the presidential candidate said, adding that more must be done to “supply and equip the American worker with the skills and the resources that they need to thrive.”

Harris is not the only figure on the left to express skepticism towards trade deals that hurt workers. Candidates of the more populist variety, especially Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have voiced similar opposition to multi-lateral trade agreements. Harris would not comment on primary rival Joe Biden’s support of NAFTA or Sanders’ past opposition to it.

Sanders and Warren have been received surprisingly well in Trump country on the basis of their economic message, showing the wide appeal of the politician, regardless of party, who can speak to the suffering of America’s heartland. Biden has been left to defend NAFTA to union workers on the campaign trail.

NAFTA removed nearly all trade barriers between America, Mexico and Canada, and thousands of job losses have been attributed to the deal. Trump renegotiated NAFTA in the form of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in November 2018, but Congress has not yet approved it.

Amid America’s ongoing trade war with China, President Trump again took decisive action in this policy realm by increasing tariffs on the manufacturing supergiant late last week.


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.