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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Getty) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Getty)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Getty)

By Will Doran July 27, 2016

Donald Trump says he and Bernie Sanders are 'very similar' on trade

The same day the Democratic National Convention opened and Bernie Sanders supporters booed Hillary Clinton in large numbers, Donald Trump sought in North Carolina to win over some of those unhappy Democrats.

When it comes to trade policies, Trump is feeling the Bern.

"We have one issue that’s very similar, and that’s trade," Trump told The News & Observer before a campaign rally in Winston-Salem on Monday. "He and I are similar in trade."

Trump has been trying this tactic out since it became clear he and Clinton would be squaring off in the general election. Last month, Trump even quoted Sanders in attacking Clinton.

And in Winston-Salem, a city which has seen many of its tobacco and textile factory jobs wither away over the past few decades, Trump further embraced Sanders’ views.

Both men have said some of the country’s major trade deals hurt blue collar workers. But we wanted to look into whether their opinions on what’s good, what’s bad and what should be done really are "very similar," as Trump said.


One of the most well-known trade deals, the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed in the U.S. with bipartisan support in 1993 and went into effect in 1994. It repealed tariffs, which are taxes on imports, for goods shipped between Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Democratic President Bill Clinton signed it after his Republican predecessor, George H.W. Bush, started the negotiations. Both parties supported it in Congress. Now, however, it’s facing bipartisan opposition.

Both Trump and Sanders have used the word "disaster" to describe NAFTA, saying it has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands American jobs.

They have different philosophies for dealing with it, however. Trump has suggested directly violating the terms of NAFTA by setting a 35 percent tariff on goods imported into the United States from Mexico.

"We will either renegotiate it or we will break it," Trump said in September.

Sanders has said he would renegotiate NAFTA but wouldn’t violate it.

"I believe in trade," Sanders said in April. "But I believe in fair trade, not unfettered free trade."


Both Trump and Sanders have criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Like NAFTA, it would cut tariffs in an effort to spur trade. It was signed earlier this year but has not yet gone into effect.

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Opposition to the TPP is a key position of the AFL-CIO. It’s not often that Republican presidential nominees find themselves agreeing with organized labor, but in this case Trump does, as does Sanders.

Their solutions are the same: The United States should withdraw. They both cite some of the same worries, like the loss of American jobs, concerns about ultra-low wages overseas and the increasingly powerful role of the United Nations.

"U.S. sovereignty will be undermined by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals," Sanders wrote in a policy paper on the TPP.

"It would give up all of our economic leverage to an international commission that would put the interests of foreign countries above our own," Trump said in a speech last month.


Both Trump and Sanders accuse China of manipulating the value of its currency. The U.S. Treasury hasn’t officially done so, although in April it put China on watch along with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany.

Both also criticize China’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization and the normalization of U.S.-China trade relations in 2000.

They differ in how to use domestic policy to bolster the U.S. position, however.

Trump said the U.S. should lower its corporate income tax rate to better compete with China and keep jobs here. Sanders disagrees and would collect more corporate tax revenue in order to create jobs via new infrastructure projects.

They also differ in the longevity of their anti-China views.

Trump has, for years, outsourced labor to China for various Trump brand products – Trump ties, cufflinks and some shirts are made in China, PolitiFact found recently. Trump has explained his avoidance of American manufacturing companies by saying "they don’t even make this stuff here." However, our friends at found that to be false.

Sanders has opposed the normalization of trade relations with China since the start.

Then-Rep. Sanders said on the House floor in 2000 that "it is not a good deal for American workers. American workers should not be asked to compete against desperate people in China who are forced to work at starvation wages, who cannot form free trade unions, who do not even have the legal right to stand up and criticize their government."

Our ruling

Donald Trump, in an effort to win over Bernie Sanders supporters, said their policies on trade are "very similar."

There are some notable differences. Sanders has always opposed normal trade with China. Trump says he’s opposed, although he outsources some of his own manufacturing to China. The two also have different ideas for dealing with NAFTA and on the role corporate tax policy plays in trade.

Yet in the grand scheme of things on the campaign trail, both men have consistently argued for protectionist trade policies as opposed to free trade. Some details differ, but they agree on the broad philosophy of opposition to free trade deals.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Bernie Sanders’ campaign website, "On the issues"

Donald Trump campaign website, "Positions"

The News & Observer, July 25, 2016, "Trump courts Sanders supporters in Winston-Salem", May 11, 2016, "Trump’s ‘Made in the USA’ Spin"

PunditFact, July 25, 2016, "Fact-checking the Funny Or Die video about Trump-brand products made overseas"

Congressional Record volume 146, number 56, Bernie Sanders speech on China trade, May 9, 2000

CBS 60 minutes, Sept. 25, 2015, "Trump calls NAFTA a "disaster"

The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 7, 2016, "Audio: Bernie Sanders speaks to The Inquirer and Daily News editorial boards"

Politico, June 28, 2016, "Full transcript: Donald Trump's jobs plan speech"

Bernie Sanders’ U.S. Senate website, undated position paper, "THE TRANS-PACIFIC TRADE (TPP) AGREEMENT MUST BE DEFEATED"

Bernie Sanders, April 5, 2016, "Statement on Panama Papers"

PolitiFact, April 12, 2016, "5 fact-checks about foreign trade, TPP, and China"

PolitiFact, July 21, 2016, "Donald Trump's largely accurate about Clinton's past support for NAFTA, TPP"

PolitiFact, Nov. 12, 2015, "Trump says China gets an advantage from the Trans-Pacific Partnership"

PolitiFact, July 21, 2016, "Trump gives half the story on trade deals, the Clintons and factory jobs"

The Washington Post, June 29, 2016, "Obama and Sanders battle over TPP and the Democratic platform"

U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Internal Affairs, Report to Congress April 29, 2016, "Foreign exchange policies of major trading partners of the United States"

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More by Will Doran

Donald Trump says he and Bernie Sanders are 'very similar' on trade

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