Republican Donald Trump took aim at U.S. free trade deals in a speech delivered in Western Pennsylvania Tuesday that painted his likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as a champion of the kind of globalization that has pushed manufacturing jobs overseas.
"This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our middle class," said Trump, standing in front of stacks of compressed metal on the floor of Alumisource, a plant that provides aluminum scrap and other raw materials to the aluminum and steel industries. "It doesn't have to be this way. We can turn it around and we can turn it around fast."
The speech, delivered in the heart of America's struggling rust belt, stressed a central premise of his campaign: that global free trade — a Republican Party staple for decades — has hurt American workers because deals have been negotiated poorly. Trump has vowed to bring back manufacturing jobs, in part, by slapping tariffs on goods produced by companies that move manufacturing jobs offshore.
It's a message that he's hoping will continue to resonate with the white, working class voters, who powered his primary campaign.
Trump, in his speech, portrayed Clinton as an agent of a status quo "that worships globalism over Americanism" and criticized her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he described as "the deathblow for American manufacturing."
He said the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed by Bill Clinton, was a "disaster" and pointed to the Clintons support for normalizing trade relations with China.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushed back against Trump's comments in a string of tweets.
@USChamber: Even under best case scenario, Trump's tariffs would strip us of at least 3.5 million jobs
Trump said that, as president, he would dramatically overhaul the way the country approaches trade, threatening to wield new tariffs and taxes to push his way.
"Ladies and gentlemen, It's time to declare our economic independence once again," he said.
He vowed to renegotiate North American Free Trade Agreement to get a better deal "by a lot, not just a little," for American workers—and threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the deal if his proposals aren't agreed.
"We already have a trade war. And were losing badly," Trump said.