DURYEA, Pa. — Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Joe Biden went head to head on trade Monday, both using Pennsylvania, a critical electoral state, to prove their opposing points on the efficacy of the Trump administration's new North American trade proposal.
Biden sent a scathing statement to a local news outlet, The Citizens’ Voice, lambasting President Donald Trump’s record on the working class, shortly before Pence’s planned visit to Luzerne County, Pa., to tout the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Pence was scheduled to speak at an event hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers and the glass manufacturer SCHOTT North America.
“Donald Trump has talked tough on trade but has nothing to show for it, other than pain for America’s families,” Biden wrote to the paper. “Mike Pence has been his complicit sidekick, propping up Trump’s trade wars and slighting hard-working Americans in Luzerne County and across the country.” Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, also tweeted a quote from the statement shortly afterward.
Biden also went after Trump‘s combative trade tactics, including trade wars with countries such as China. He accused the president of being more concerned with looking tough on the global stage than defending the well-being of working Americans.
“I know Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvanians will not be fooled by Pence’s blind promotion of Trump’s irresponsible trade wars," Biden said in an extended statement to POLITICO. “They understand that it is their workers, farmers, and manufacturers who are paying the price and feeling the pain.“
During his appearance in Duryea, Pence slammed back, accusing Biden and then-President Barack Obama of overseeing a decrease in 51,000 manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania during the last administration.
“Well, Joe, Pennsylvanians will not be fooled,” Pence said to an audience of more than 200. “They know the USMCA is a win for Pennsylvania and a win for America. It’s time you got on board. It’s time to pass USMCA.”
Pence has spoken at more than 30 events aimed at pressing lawmakers to pass the new trade pact, which still needs to be approved by Congress. House Democrats are currently negotiating with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in an effort to secure changes to the deal that would allow for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put it up for a vote.
All top Democratic presidential candidates have said they do not support the USMCA in its current form. In his statement, Biden said the deal would be too generous to large pharmaceutical companies, while inadequately ensuring protections for American workers‘ rights.
The Trump administration, Republicans and business groups have been pressing for Congress to put the deal up for a vote before the end of the year. But it remains to be seen whether Democrats and Lighthizer will strike a deal that clears the path for Congress to consider the deal in the 23 legislative days left this year.