When it comes to free trade, Hillary Clinton sounds more and more like Donald Trump every day.

This is a clear attempt to take votes from Trump’s strongest supporters: disgruntled rust-belt workers who blame China and Mexico for stealing US jobs.

CNN Money reports Hillary Clinton Vows to Slap Tariffs on Trade Cheaters

For months, Trump has slammed U.S.’ trade deals with Mexico and South Korea as “horrible” and “disastrous.” He wants to fix them by placing hefty fines — known as tariffs — on goods coming into the U.S. from foreign countries that don’t play fair.

Now, Clinton says she’s ready to impose tariffs too.

“When countries break the rules, we won’t hesitate to impose targeted tariffs,” she told the crowd at a manufacturing plant in Warren, Michigan.

“I’m going to ramp up enforcement by appointing a new chief trade prosecutor, tripling the number of enforcement officers,” she said.

On Thursday, Clinton went out of her way to stress that she is not supporting the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama has been pushing.

“I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president,” she said.

Trump’s Big Plans

Also consider Donald Trump’s Big Economic Plan: Fix U.S. Trade, written in March, before Trump won the nomination.

1. Trump’s claim: Trade is killing jobs

“The American worker is being crushed” by trade, Trump says. As proof, he cites research from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute that found America has lost 900,000 jobs to Mexico since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in late 1993.

The job losses are the subject of a huge debate. Other research by the right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce says 5 million U.S. jobs have been created because of NAFTA.

2. Trump: Ohio has lost 100,000 jobs to trade

In his op-ed, Trump argues that states like Ohio have been especially hard hit by trade. “An Economic Policy Institute analysis found that Ohio has already lost more than 100,000 jobs to Trans-Pacific Partnership countries,” he writes.

3. Trump’s plan: The art of the (trade) deal

Trump solution is to renegotiate trade agreements (the U.S. currently has 20 free-trade deals in place) and put taxes (known as tariffs) on Chinese and Mexican imports.

The idea is to make Chinese and Mexican goods more expensive so companies will start manufacturing in the U.S. again.

The problem is China and Mexico aren’t likely to send Trump a thank you note. They would probably retaliate by putting taxes on U.S. goods coming into their countries. It could cause a global trade war.

4. Trump says stop the TPP trade deal

Trump has a big warning about the future: “The situation is about to get drastically worse if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not stopped. One of the first casualties of the TPP will be America’s auto industry, and among the worst victims of this pact will be the people of Ohio.”

He points out that his rivals for the Republican nomination — Gov. Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio — all support TPP.

The bottom line

Bashing trade is helping Trump win votes. But both Republican and Democratic experts warn his plan to “fix” trade deals could cause an economic war that leaves Americans even worse off.

TPP Fiasco

I am against TPP not because it expands free trade, rather because it has nothing to do with free trade.

As secretary of State, Hillary pushed for TPP at least 45 times.

Change of Heart

Hillary had a change of heart last October, no doubt due to positions taken by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

I’m continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what’s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we’re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers. But based on what I know so far, I can’t support this agreement,” said Clinton.

Last October I asked “How is it that it’s more important for a private citizen to be more concerned about and more aware of details in a trade bill than the Secretary of State?”

Wages Taxes Trade

Hillary’s Changing Tune

  • As Secretary of State: “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”
  • Last October: “Based on what I know so far, I can’t support this agreement.”
  • Today: “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.”

Questions of the Day

  1. What will Hillary say if elected?
  2. Given how much economists and the media have blasted Trump over trade issues, when do they start bashing Hillary for identical policies and statements?

Question two is easy: Never. Instead, expect praise.

For those who think there is a difference on trade between Hillary, Sanders, and Trump, please take Today’s Quiz: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton – Who Said It?

Mike “Mish” Shedlock