Joseph R. Biden on Thursday reluctantly gave President Trump credit for making a U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal that’s “better than NAFTA.”
He conceded the president’s success in rewriting the long disparaged North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr. Biden helped pass as a senator in 1993, after repeated questioning by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“He renegotiated NAFTA and you didn’t is the point,” Mr. Tapper said in an interview with the former vice president, noting that Mr. Biden and President Barack Obama both promised to renegotiate the trade deal before they spent eight years in the White House.
After some back and forth, Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, acknowledged Mr. Trump’s achievement with a caveat:
“It is better than NAFTA. But look at what the overall trade policy has been, even with NAFTA? We now have this gigantic deficit in trade with Mexico. Not because NAFTA wasn’t made better, because overall trade policy and how he deals with it made everything worse.”
NAFTA was blamed for killing more than 700,000 American jobs and shuttering at least 60,000 U.S. factories by clearing a path for companies to move manufacturing to Mexico.
Mr. Trump’s promise to rip up NAFTA was one of his top campaign promises in 2016 and one that most pundits and politicians said couldn’t be done.
In the interview, Mr. Tapper put a fine point on the dichotomy in Mr. Biden’s new “Made in America” campaign pitch.
“I’m sitting here listening to your pitch and I’m thinking, ‘I like what he has to sell but he’s part of the establishment that has been selling my jobs down the river. He supported NAFTA, he supported Most Favored Nation status for China and Trump renegotiated NAFTA and Obama and Biden didn’t,’” said Mr. Tapper.
“I’ll tell you what we did do,” Mr. Biden responded. “We inherited the greatest recession short of a depression.”
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