Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday proposed altering how international trade deals are negotiated, saying that if elected president, she would open the discussions to public comment and limit U.S. trading partners to countries that meet human rights and environmental standards.
The Massachusetts Democrat announced her plan ahead of a town hall in Toledo — located in a part of the country that has lost manufacturing jobs — and a day before she takes the stage in the second Democratic debate.
Trade is among the few issues that scramble traditional partisan lines, with centrist Democrats and Republicans largely supporting the deals while more populist-oriented figures in both parties oppose many of them. Warren has long been skeptical of trade deals, helping lead Democratic opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries that President Barack Obama hoped to enact.
At times, Warren’s views on trade have aligned somewhat philosophically with President Trump, who also opposed the TPP and made opposition to NAFTA a key promise of his campaign. His criticism of trade deals gave him a political boost in the industrial Midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin, where many blame the accords for shuttered factories and job losses.
Warren’s restrictive views on trade also set her apart from other top contenders in the Democratic presidential field such as former vice president Joe Biden, who voted for NAFTA as a senator and supported the TPP deal as Obama’s partner in the White House.
In her plan released Monday, Warren seeks to focus the accords on labor, environmental and consumer interests and de-emphasize corporate priorities.
“Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment,” Warren said in a Medium post announcing her idea. “My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe.”
Warren’s plan is the third part of her “economic patriotism” agenda, which includes initiatives that would invest more in green manufacturing and impose new restrictions on private equity firms.
On trade, Warren said she would make deals only with countries that meet sweeping environmental, human rights and labor standards. That includes dealing only with countries that have signed the Paris climate accord, eliminated domestic fossil fuel subsidies and signed international treaties designed to reduce corruption.
Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris accord. “Shamefully, America itself does not meet many of these labor and environmental standards today,” Warren wrote in her proposal. “I am committed to fixing that as President.”
Warren also said she would model some aspects of trade negotiations after the process used by federal agencies to issue new rules, which requires that draft agreements be published online for public comment.
She would expand existing advisory committees to include more representation from labor, environmental and consumer groups. And she would require agencies to provide regional analyses of deals, so local impacts could be weighed against the national benefits.
Warren also committed to stop using investor-state dispute settlement provisions, a process that critics say provides too much power to big companies. Warren has opposed these provisions in the past, saying they afford “multinational corporations special rights to challenge American laws in corporate courts without ever stepping foot in the United States.”