(CNSNews.com) - Twice on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed "disastrous trade policies" for job losses that have devastated cities like Detroit and Flint, Michigan.
"There is no doubt -- I don't think anyone debates this, that these disastrous trade policies -- NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, have cost this country millions of decent paying jobs and resulted in a race to the bottom, where many of the new jobs being created pay significantly less than those jobs used to pay years ago. That is the result of a disastrous trade policy," Sanders told ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos.
"I'm not going to say it is the only problem that Detroit or Flint has, but it is a significant part of the decline of many, many communities in America. Companies shut down in this country. They go to China, they go to Mexico, pay people low wages, bring their products back in to the United States. Very bad policies for the American worker."
The trade issue also came up in the Democrat debate on Sunday night, when a factory worker from Detroit asked Sanders' rival Hillary Clinton what she would do to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Clinton said she's developed a "comprehensive manufacturing plan" that includes incentives to keep jobs in this country. She said she will create jobs through spending on infrastructure and "clean energy" and "do more to help small businesses." And she said she'll impose an "exit fee" on companies that export jobs.
Sanders accused Clinton of discovering "religion" on the trade issue "a little bit too late."
"Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of the disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America," Sanders said. "NAFTA, supported by the Secretary, cost us 800,000 jobs nationwide, tens of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. Permanent normal trade relations with China cost us millions of jobs. Look, I was on a picket line in early 1990's against NFATA because you didn't need a PhD in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico making 25 cents an hour.
"And the reason that I was one of the first, not one of the last to be in opposition to the TPP (President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership) is that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Vietnam today making a minimum wage of 65 cents an hour.
"Look, what we have got to do is tell corporate America that they cannot continue to shut down. We've lost 60,000 factories since 2001. They're going to start having to, if I'm president, invest in this country -- not in China, not in Mexico."
In response, Clinton changed the subject, saying Sanders was against the bailout of the U.S. auto industry, while she voted to "save" it.
Sanders reminded Clinton that he voted against the "Wall Street bailout." Your story is...voting for every disastrous trade agreement, and voting for corporate America."
Sanders said he opposed corporate America "time and time again," and he understood that trade agreements would destroy the middle class. "That is one of the major differences that we have," Sanders added.
Sanders said trade policies that enticed American companies to move abroad "has resulted in the shrinking of the American middle class."
"And, I'll tell you what else it did. It's not only job loss by the millions, it is the race to the bottom so that new jobs in manufacturing, in some cases today, pay 50 percent less than they did 20 years ago. How stupid is that trade policy?"
Clinton on Opposing the TPP: ‘I Waited … Because I Did Want to Give The Benefit of The Doubt to The Administration’
Obama Urges Congress to Approve TPP ‘This Year’; Leading Presidential Candidates Oppose It
Obama Deal Seeks to ‘Eliminate’ Trade Barriers With Communist Regime Now Running $24.9B Trade Deficit With U.S.