Joe Biden defended trade deals during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, saying that the United States needs to set the rules of commerce and not let China fill the vacuum.
The comments put the former vice president at odds with the other contenders, who argued that trade deals in general only benefited corporations.
“We need to bring … our allies along with us — to set the rules of the road so China cannot continue to abuse their power by stealing our intellectual property and doing all of the other things using their corporate state system to our significant disadvantage,” Biden said.
Biden’s rivals for the nomination characterized trade deals as generally a losing proposition for working people and the environment.
Bernie Sanders reiterated that he would oppose passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which is expected to be voted on by the Senate by the end of the week. He argued that the country “can do much better.”
“Joe and I have a fundamental disagreement here, in case you haven’t noticed,” the Vermont senator added. He called trade policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China as part of “a race to the bottom.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren countered that she would support the USMCA deal because it was a “modest improvement,” but proudly noted she had opposed trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Pacific nation trade deal pursued by President Barack Obama. As part of the Obama administration, Biden pushed to pass the TPP, as the deal was known, over the objections of liberal congressional Democrats.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Peter Buttigieg, echoed the comments, saying that the USMCA was worth supporting, but only barely.