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Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump are not all that different when it comes to trade policy.
The Vermont independent and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate unveiled a trade platform Monday that challenges his rivals to take several steps he says will protect American jobs and boost wages. Trump has already backed — but failed to follow through on — some of the trade policies Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist and frequent target of conservatives, outlined in his trade plan.
On Monday, the senator called for Trump and all of his Democratic competitors to pledge to renegotiate U.S. trade deals and label China a currency manipulator — the latter a step the president has not taken despite promises to do so. He also pushed for an executive order to bar federal contracts to companies that outsource jobs, the repeal of a provision in the GOP tax law that critics say promotes outsourcing and a promise not to appoint a trade representative who worked on Wall Street.
"We need a president who will actually fight for American workers, keep their promises, and stand up to the giant corporations who close down plants to send jobs overseas," Sanders said in a statement.
Sanders' proposal reflects a Democratic field that sees an opening to drill into Trump on his trade policy. As a candidate in 2016, the president pledged to overhaul U.S. trade deals to boost American manufacturing and cut trade deficits. While the U.S. has replaced its free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, it faces hurdles on its way to ratification in Congress. The Trump administration also hopes to strike a new deal with China, but the world's two largest economies still have issues to resolve.
Sanders in particular has targeted Trump because his trade views overlap with the president's. He opposed ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 as a House member and voted against giving President Barack Obama the authority to expedite the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal in 2015. Trump eventually withdrew U.S. support for the agreement.
While Sanders has eviscerated Wall Street and corporations for years, his brand of populism finds common ground with Trump's on trade. Other Democratic candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have largely aligned with Sanders and Trump on trade issues.
Trump appears likely to lean on a strong economy during his 2020 reelection bid. In a statement responding to Sanders, Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said, "Desperate Democrats know they cannot compete with President Trump's record of success for blue collar workers."
"President Trump is the first president in modern history to have the courage to take on China and rip up job-killing trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP," she said in a statement. "Unlike any of his predecessors, President Trump has brought China to the negotiating table and is holding them accountable for their unfair trade practices."