Sanders digs in on anti-trade argument

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie SandersBernie SandersCould President Hillary heal a divided nation? Clinton camp oppo research: Sanders has 'no accomplishments' Heck's rejection of Trump imperils Nevada Senate race MORE is riding a wave of anti-trade rhetoric after his stunning primary win in Michigan on Tuesday.

The Vermont senator on Wednesday leveled more criticism at rival Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCould President Hillary heal a divided nation? Trump lands first major newspaper endorsement Clinton: Trump's election talk poses 'threat to our democracy' MORE for her support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the establishment of trade relations with China, saying the policies led to millions of jobs losses and decimated U.S. manufacturing.

Sanders called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal between the United States and 11 other nations that Congress may consider this year, "disastrous" for workers and the nation’s economy.

“We need a trade policy today which tells corporate America, you know what, you’ve got to start investing in this country, not just in China and just in Mexico,” Sanders said on MSNBC on Wednesday.

“That has been my position from way back when, and it remains my position today,” he told Andrea Mitchell.

He said that 60,000 manufacturing plants have been shut down since 2001.

Sanders derided Clinton for first calling the TPP a “wonderful agreement” before deciding to oppose the sweeping Asia-Pacific deal.

“I think we know where she is coming from on free trade,” he said Wednesday.  

Clinton announced her opposition to the TPP after the deal was completed in early October.

“So we need to rethink, entirely, our trade policies, we need to rebuild the manufacturing sector in this country," Sanders said.

"We need to demand corporate America invest here and create decent paying jobs, and that’s is exactly what I will do if I’m elected president.”

Sanders of late has juxtaposed his record of vigorously opposing trade agreements with Clinton's support, going as far as to blame her for Michigan's declining middle class.

Last week, he said that he and Clinton have “very different points of view” on trade.

“If the people of Michigan want to make a decision about which candidate stood with workers against corporate America and against these disastrous trade agreements, that candidate is Bernie Sanders,” he said during a rally last week in Traverse City, Mich.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, which opposes the TPP, said Wednesday that "Americans' opposition to job-killing trade policies fueled the stunning Bernie Sanders upset victory in Michigan."

"The outcome of the Michigan primary shows the potency of trade issues and foreshadows the trouble Hillary Clinton could face winning key Midwestern states in a race against [Donald] Trump," she said on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program.

Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communications Workers of America, also sides with Sanders on the issue.

"Voters rightly see the TPP as another trade deal in a string of many that would enrich big corporations at the expense of working families and their communities," Larson said.

In a counter-argument, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that Michigan and Ohio have benefitted from global trade.

Trade supports 1.2 million jobs in Michigan and 1.5 million in Ohio, where Sanders and Clinton will face off in a primary on Tuesday. 

NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico buy 65 percent and 54 percent of Michigan's and Ohio's merchandise exports, respectively, according to John Murphy, the Chamber’s senior vice president for international policy.

The auto sector accounts for one-half of Michigan's exports and one-third of those of the Buckeye State.

"The labor-funded reports that ascribe manufacturing job losses to America’s trade agreements couldn’t be more wrong: Trade agreements haven’t been the problem for U.S. manufacturers," Murphy said.

"Rather, properly crafted, they can be a part of the solution," he said. 

On Wednesday, Sanders said that he opposes putting U.S. workers in competition with countries like Vietnam and Malaysia that pay low wages and put their workers in “slave-like” conditions.

"So count me in as somebody who does not believe that American workers should be forced to compete against these people who make a minimum wage of 56 cents an hour," he said.

He said that manufacturing jobs that used to pay upward of $30 an hour and enable people to rise up to the middle class are now gone.

“Today you have new manufacturing jobs in this country that are paying $9, 10, 11 an hour, 50 percent reduction in wages in some manufacturing sectors," Sanders said.

"That’s because employers are saying, ‘You don’t want the $11 an hour in manufacturing? Fine, we’ll shut down and we’ll go to China.'"