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Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, seemed taken aback when ABC This Week host Martha Raddatz juxtaposed the harsh views of U.S. trade deals of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump with Brown’s own critiques over the years.
Brown has said that he’d like to renegotiate a better North American Free Trade Agreement, as has Trump. Both men have also expressed concerns that China could enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal "through the back door" (a Trump statement we rated Pants on Fire).
"Well done," Brown said after Raddatz played clips of his statements. "Good research."
"A couple of things -- first of all," Brown went on, "all I’ve heard with Donald Trump, the guy who made a lot of money from outsourcing jobs to China, to Mexico, to Turkey, to Slovenia, to other countries I’m forgetting right now -- the guy that made a lot of money from that is now against this trade policy, but never, ever raised his voice against it when Congress was considering it."
Brown, in office since 2007, has been determinedly critical of U.S. trade policies like NAFTA throughout his career, even authoring the book Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed.
Meanwhile, it’s well documented that Trump often says a thing, then denies having said it. So we turned to the public record of Trump on trade.
Trump’s trade take-aways
In July 2015, defending his "made in China" ties, Trump told CNN straight-up: "It’s very, very hard to have anything in apparel made in this country."
The Washington Post reported that in 2004, Trump signed on with Phillips-Van Heusen to put his name on a collection of shirts, eyewear, cuff links and suits. He hired a company to broker the deal. Trump could have insisted on American manufacturing as part of those negotiations, but he didn’t, the Post reported.
In the first three years of the licensing deal with Phillips-Van Heusen, Trump made over $3.2 million in royalties.
In 2003, 95 percent of Phillips-Van Heusen’s products were manufactured in foreign countries, many of which had free trade agreements with the United States. The benefits of those agreements are spelled out in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission annual filings.
"These products are imported and are subject to U.S. customs laws, which impose tariffs as well as import quota restrictions for textiles and apparel established by the U.S. government," read one such filing from 2004. "In addition, a portion of our imported products is eligible for certain duty-advantaged programs commonly known as NAFTA, AGOA, CBTPA and CBI."
To put the cost advantages in plain speech, we turned to Dean Baker at the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research.
"With a deal like NAFTA, the large purpose of the agreement was to encourage investment in Mexico, so companies set up operations in Mexico at lower cost than if they were producing them domestically," Baker said. "Other agreements, like granting China permanent normal trade relations status, facilitated the same sort of thing with China. The direct effect is getting lower-cost labor."
The indirect effect, Baker said, is that domestic workers are pinched even if they keep their jobs. Their bargaining power for better pay or other benefits is decreased under the threat of the company packing up and moving overseas.
"There are many instances where companies force concessions from workers, so that if they don’t agree to lower pay, the company will shift production, and they’ll lose their jobs," Baker said.
In a 2005 blog posted on his Trump University website, now defunct but archived online, Trump defended outsourcing:
"I know that doesn't make it any easier for people whose jobs have been outsourced overseas, but if a company's only means of survival is by farming jobs outside its walls, then sometimes it's a necessary step. The other option might be to close its doors for good."
In other words, Brown’s account of Trump outsourcing production of his ventures checks out. But what about his lack of a record opposing those deals?
‘Never, ever raised his voice’?
Debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement had reached its zenith in October 1993. The policy passed the Senate the following month, was signed by President Bill Clinton in December, and went into effect Jan. 1, 1994.
Trump wasn’t a politician in the early 1990s. At the time, the New York real estate mogul’s name was synonymous with wealth, just a few years after he published 1987’s The Art of the Deal. In that autobiography, Trump catalogued all the ways that he’d expanded his influence beyond the $40 million he inherited from his dad.
Trump already had the type of fame that draws cameras for walking out to get the mail, so if the businessman were to weigh in on NAFTA, he’d be quoted.
And so he was. Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski unearthed reports of an October 1993 business conference in Bakersfield, Calif., at which Trump was a speaker. (Other speakers included Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, comedian Phyllis Diller, weatherman Willard Scott, and businessmen T. Boone Pickens and Lee Iacocca.)
Nobody taped Trump’s speech, according to conference representatives contacted by Buzzfeed. But Kaczynski found, and PolitiFact Ohio reviewed, local newspaper reports like one from the Daily News of Los Angeles, which called Trump "one of the few to come out against NAFTA."
The Lodi News-Sentinel reported, "Trump apparently ardently spoke against the plan," because, "it would only benefit Mexico."
Trump said, "The Mexicans want it, and that doesn’t sound good to me," according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
That same month, Trump did make his way to Capitol Hill, but not to talk trade deals. He testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, advocating tighter regulation over Native American-owned casinos on tribal lands. Such casinos were stiff competition for his own casino properties in Atlantic City, N.J.
Trump complained that prospective casino owners on reservations "don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians." (The paper reported that Trump had been "on a tear on this subject for months.")
Brown spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue told PolitiFact that Brown was trying to draw a contrast between his efforts to discourage outsourcing, and Trump’s capitalization of it.
"The point he was making on Sunday is that he’s never known Donald Trump to be an active ally in that fight," Donohue said.
Brown said Trump made a lot of money from outsourcing jobs thanks to NAFTA "but never, ever raised his voice against it when Congress was considering it."
Yes, Trump has benefitted financially from trade deals like NAFTA. Even he acknowledges that.
But Brown’s televised comment makes it sound as though Trump changed his mind on trade when it became politically expedient. Rather, Trump was not a fan of NAFTA from the start, and was a rare voice in opposition to it at a Bakersfield, Calif., convention.
We rate Brown’s claim Mostly False.https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/a077db54-9832-4ebd-a9d4-7029ed3411d9
Interview, Jenny Donohue, spokesperson for Sen. Sherrod Brown, July 7, 2016
Interview, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, July 7, 2016
Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-K, Feb. 1, 2004
The Washington Post, "Casino Owner and Congressman Meet on the Warpath," Oct. 7, 1993
The Washington Post, "Trump has profited from foreign labor he says is killing U.S. jobs," Mar. 13, 2016
The New York Times, "The Businessman Benefits from Trade Practices That the Candidate Scorns," July 1, 2016
Buzzfeed.com, "Donald Trump Spoke Forcefully Against NAFTA at a 1993 Business Conference," Feb. 29, 2016
USA Today, "Donald Trump faces lawsuits over business deals," July 28, 2011
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