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 PelosiSunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Attacking the Affordable Care Act in the time of COVID-19 DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill MORE (D-Calif.), but also represents a significant victory for President TrumpDonald John TrumpWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs Wake up America, your country doesn't value your life MORE.

The deal seems likely to divide the Democratic field, with progressive Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (D-Mass.) on one side and centrists such as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging 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 WydenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Senate Democrats vow to keep pushing for more funds for mail-in voting Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks 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 BookerLawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men Amazon doubling overtime pay for warehouse workers MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website We need a massive economic response to counter the threat of the coronavirus Senator calls for cybersecurity review at health agencies after hacking incident 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 ClintonWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillary Clinton on US leading in coronavirus cases: Trump 'did promise "America First"' Democratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines 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 BrownAmazon doubling overtime pay for warehouse workers Democrats grow nervous over primary delays Hillicon Valley: Senators press Amazon over workplace safety amid outbreak | Lyft expands to deliveries | Dems seek election security funds in stimulus package 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) TesterSome Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on Democrats fume over GOP coronavirus bill: 'Totally inadequate' Hillicon Valley: Twitter targets coronavirus misinformation | Facebook bans sanitizer, virus test ads to prevent price gouging | DHS defines critical jobs during outbreak | Remote working apps surge 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.