Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump may come from vastly different backgrounds and espouse opposing views on most issues, but they both won the Michigan primary on March 8. Their victories are thanks in part to one issue they have similar views on: free trade deals. Both Sanders and Trump have argued that trade deals hurt the American economy.
According to conservative political commentator Laura Ingham, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), led to 281,000 lost manufacturing jobs in the U.S. through 2013, and economic opportunities remain scant, Real Clear Politics reports. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that Michigan was the hardest-hit state in the wake of NAFTA, the Huffington Post notes.
Although NAFTA was implemented back in 1994, and WTO was founded in 1995, trade deals have come back into the spotlight thanks to the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a U.S. trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries. The deal has been championed by President Barack Obama, but many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have voiced concerns about the measure, specifically regarding its possible effects on the remaining U.S.-based manufacturing industries.
This revival of the free trade deal debate translated well in terms of votes for Sanders and Trump, both of whom are running as champions of the working class. Sanders has pressed his main rival Hillary Clinton on trade and her unclear stance on the issue has proven problematic. Trump meanwhile has cited America's trade policies with China as one reason why the manufacturing sector is crumbling.
Both Democrats and Republicans have become increasingly concerned about trade in 2016 and some have called it a “sleeper issue” in the 2016 presidential election. Although 55 percent of Republicans surveyed by CNN said they believe trade kills jobs, another 32 percent said they believe trade creates them.
Democrats polled in a similar pattern: 58 percent of Democrats believe increased trade takes away U.S. jobs and 30 percent believe it creates them.