Trump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field

Democrats running for president face a difficult decision on whether to embrace a revamped trade deal with Mexico and Canada that is backed by the AFL-CIO and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse passes bill aimed at bolstering Holocaust education Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — NFL social media accounts hacked | Dem questions border chief over controversial Facebook group | Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views Meadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions MORE (D-Calif.), but also represents a significant victory for President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE.

The deal seems likely to divide the Democratic field, with progressive Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP Iowa senator suggests Trump impeachment defense could hurt Biden at caucuses On The Money: Stocks close with steep losses driven by coronavirus fears | Tax season could bring more refund confusion | Trump's new wins for farmers may not undo trade damage Sanders launches first TV ads in Nevada MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' On The Money: Stocks close with steep losses driven by coronavirus fears | Tax season could bring more refund confusion | Trump's new wins for farmers may not undo trade damage Overnight Energy: Sanders scores highest on green group's voter guide | Trump's latest wins for farmers may not undo trade damage | Amazon employees defy company to speak on climate change MORE (D-Mass.) on one side and centrists such as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegOvernight Energy: Sanders scores highest on green group's voter guide | Trump's latest wins for farmers may not undo trade damage | Amazon employees defy company to speak on climate change Sanders surges to first in New Hampshire: poll Majority sees no ties between business experience and political success MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Energy: Sanders scores highest on green group's voter guide | Trump's latest wins for farmers may not undo trade damage | Amazon employees defy company to speak on climate change Sanders surges to first in New Hampshire: poll Majority sees no ties between business experience and political success MORE (D-Minn.) on the other.

None of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates released statements or offered public comment on the trade deal Tuesday. Text of the complex agreement replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) reflecting changes negotiated by House Democrats had yet to be released.

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Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTax season could bring more refund confusion Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment MORE (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, gave Democratic senators a summary of the deal at their weekly lunch, but Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar — as well as Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Black caucus in Nevada: 'Notion that Biden has all of black vote is not true' The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators MORE (D-Colo.), who are also running for president — were not in attendance.

Sanders and Warren, who polls show are top contenders for the Democratic nomination, have long criticized Washington trade policies they say have hurt workers and the environment.

They are also fiercely critical of Trump, making it difficult to see how they could back a deal he has already touted as a major achievement.

“Donald Trump will be spending the next 11 months bragging about the trade agreement he ‘alone’ passed, despite the political capital Democrats sunk into making sure NAFTA 2.0 was slightly better than the deal it’s replacing,” said Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy for America, a liberal advocacy group.

Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2016 was a cornerstone of his campaign and a headache for Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — NFL social media accounts hacked | Dem questions border chief over controversial Facebook group | Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views Clinton on Sanders comments: 'I wasn't thinking about the election' MORE, who backed the deal as a member of the Obama administration but shifted her position as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Warren and Sanders, who have been to the left of Clinton on trade, seem unlikely to back this deal, said one of their Democratic colleagues.

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“They haven’t been in the caucus for months, but I doubt it,” said the Democratic senator.

Sanders said a year ago that he would “strongly oppose” Trump’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico unless strong enforcement mechanisms were added.

Warren was critical of the text of the original deal Trump negotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA.

“Trump’s deal won’t stop the serious and ongoing harm NAFTA causes for American workers.” she said last year. “It won’t stop outsourcing, it won’t raise wages and it won’t create jobs. It’s NAFTA 2.0.”

In July, Warren released a plan for how she would overhaul future trade negotiations. She proposed that negotiators be required to disclose drafts to the public and pledged to appoint more representatives from labor, environmental and consumer groups on advisory committees.

It’s possible Warren could shift her position given the changes Pelosi and House Democrats won on the deal, including stronger labor and environmental provisions. The deal includes the virtual elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which gives investors the right to sue a host country for discriminatory practices such as environmental regulations that threaten to reduce profits.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said, “the new agreement still contains things from the original NAFTA that are very problematic,” citing limits on food-safety and environmental regulation.

“The issue I think for a lot of progressives is going to be whether or not they think the agreement can actually make a difference in trying to reduce NAFTA’s ongoing damage,” she said. “The question for a lot of organizations is are the improvements that were made sufficient to make a difference in NAFTA’s general trend of race to the bottom,” she added. 

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Senate Democrat: 'Fine' to hear from Hunter Biden MORE (D-Ohio), a leading advocate for workers and organized labor whose influence on trade will be felt within the Democratic caucus and presidential field, offered measured, but favorable, comments Tuesday.

“I like what I’ve heard so far,” he said, noting the support offered by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“I’ve been talking to Trumka once or twice or three times a week for months on this and working to get this language,” he said. “I like what Trumka said.”

But a Senate Democratic aide predicted Sanders and Warren would feel compelled to oppose the renegotiated version of NAFTA despite its improvements.

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“Bernie and Elizabeth I think have to come out strongly opposing it, but that’s going to be tough for them because there are some things in there that we’re really happy with,” the aide said.

“You can look at this with two different sets of messages. One set of messages is this is a terrible deal made tolerable by what Nancy Pelosi was able to get in there,” the source added. “You can also message it another way, which is that no trade deal goes unpunished and this is NAFTA 2.0 and anybody who seriously cares about labor and environmental standards” won’t support it.

Biden has also criticized Trump on trade, but he supported NAFTA in the early 1990s. Like Sanders and Warren, he has cast himself as an antagonist to Trump, but he has also sought to portray himself as someone who would be willing to work with Republicans to get things done in Washington.

That could give Biden a reason to back the newly crafted deal, which Pelosi is championing as a framework for future trade agreements. Pelosi is also stressing the ability of her caucus to work with Trump on legislation even as it moves to impeach him.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats cry foul over Schiff backlash Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Nadler gets under GOP's skin MORE (D-Mont.), whose home state voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, said he was relieved by the display of bipartisanship.

“I think it’s going to give some certainty. If there’s anything this administration has done is provide a lot of uncertainty when it comes to trade, so I welcome an agreement. The devil is always in the details,” he said. “I think we need to get more agreements done, not fewer.” 

If Biden does support the deal, he may come under attack from rivals.

At a Democratic debate in September, Sanders sought to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Biden on NAFTA, which Sanders opposed in the early 1990s.