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Bill Clinton told CNBC on Tuesday that activist investors, rather than trade deals, are partially at fault for U.S. corporations moving operations out into Mexico.
GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump has called for "economic independence" and blamed globalization for "totally" wiping out the American middle class. Trump has previously called NAFTA "the worst trade deal in history" and blamed Bill and Hillary Clinton for endorsing it.
In the interview with CNBC, Clinton responded that American corporate culture, law and practice have contributed to companies moving operations across the border. He said "activists investors who demand a profit in a year and a day and a management who are paid by that" are to blame.
"That's not NAFTA. That's not running a stakeholder society. We need to go from a shareholder or at least a top shareholder to a stakeholder society as we once were. We need the incentives to do that and if we do that, we'll make better decisions," the former president said in the exclusive interview from the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York.
America "will have to trade some because we're only 4 percent of the world's people and we like having 20 percent of the world's income," he said. He added that the U.S. just has to make the "right kind of trade deals."
"If you enforce the trade deals and you do it right, they can be positive," he said.
In order to keep jobs in the United States, Clinton called for more tax credits and incentives to encourage investment in areas where "there's been trade dislocation or the economy's moved away or they're too far away, like Native American reservations with no gambling."
"America would feel much more comfortable in trading if we thought everybody is going to be taken care of," he said. "We have done a poor job of dealing with the people who got the short end of the stick and we've got to do better."
Clinton also spoke about the Federal Reserve and plans to reorganize the foundation if his wife is elected president.