Though “I agree” was a common refrain from both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary debate in Flint, Michigan on Sunday evening, the two clashed vigorously when it came to the impact of trade agreements and the obscure Export-Import Bank on manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Sanders was asked by moderator Anderson Cooper to explain a tweet he sent out last week showing abandoned buildings in Detroit and blaming Hillary’s support of free trade policies. He replied: “I’m blaming the trade policies… Well, Hillary Clinton, and everybody else who supported these disastrous trade policies. She wasn’t alone. We have many, many Republicans and far too many Democrats who supported these disastrous trade policies.”
Earlier, he had criticized her for taking too long to oppose to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact recently signed by the Obama administration. In response, Clinton said that she wanted to understand what was in the final version of the agreement before taking a position on it.
In reply to Sanders’ taunt about Detroit, Clinton avoided the specifics of free trade but shot back by highlighting that after two terms of her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency, “the unemployment rate in Michigan was 4.4 percent. There had been a net increase of 54,000 manufacturing jobs. There had been a net increase of 653,000 jobs overall.”
She gave credit for some of that job growth in Michigan to the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans to businesses that want to export goods and pointed out that Sanders is opposed to the bank’s reauthorization. “I favor that, he’s opposed it. I want to do everything I can for us to compete and win in the global economy…”
Sanders replied by criticizing the bank, pointing out that 75% of its funds go to large profitable corporations: “I don’t think it’s a great idea for the American taxpayer to have to subsidize through corporate welfare profitable corporations who downsize in the United States of America.”