Former Vice President Joe Biden defended his support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during a campaign stop in Iowa this week.
Since announcing his run for president, Biden’s interactions with reporters have been slim, but one reporter asked him at an ice cream stop in Iowa if his vote for NAFTA was a mistake.
“No, it wasn’t,” Biden replied shortly.
Asked if he considered himself a free trader, Biden replied, “No, I’m not a free trader. I’m a fair trader.”
He said he did not oppose trade with China.
“We should treat other countries in the way in which they treat us, which is particular as it relates to China, you know. If they want to trade here, we ought to hold them to the same rules,” Biden said.
He criticized President Donald Trump’s approach to trade.
“But automatically going out and just deciding it’s all about trade deficit imbalance and go ahead and take care of the soybean farmers in my state and here and around the country is not the way to do it,” he said. “We need smart policies in regard to how we deal on trade”:
As a campaign aide abruptly ended the trade discussion, Biden joked, “But I’m a free ice cream eater, and that’s why I’m here right now.”
Biden has yet to detail plans to address the trade imbalance, but his rival for the Democrat nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, reminded voters that the former vice president voted for NAFTA and helped push the TPP trade agreement when Barack Obama was president.
“I helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He voted for NAFTA,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN. “I helped lead the fight against PNTR [permanent normal trade relations] with China. He voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He supported it.”
Since Biden got into the race, Trump has also noted that the two are aligned on trade issues.
“One thing I do have in common with Bernie is trade because he knows the world is ripping us off, and I’ve stopped it. I’m in the process of stopping it. He could never do what I’m doing now,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business.
As Breitbart News reporter John Binder noted, Biden continues to get support from labor unions, despite his complex dance on trade.
“Some jobs got lost. Some jobs got created. But, again, NAFTA wasn’t the problem,” Biden said in 2007.