Donald Trump is betting that his ongoing war on trade deals will claim Hillary Clinton as a political casualty.
Speaking in the parking lot of a former Osram Sylvania factory in Manchester, New Hampshire, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee hammered away at what has become the new centerpiece of his campaign: that poorly negotiated trade deals have cost the U.S. millions of jobs.
“I’m not against trade. I just want to make better deals,” Trump said Thursday at a town hall-style meeting. “Somebody said ‘Are you a free trader?’ The answer is yes. But to have free trade you have to have smart people. We don’t have smart people elected to government. Or we have people who are controlled by the lobbyists and controlled by the special interests.”
He singled out Hillary Clinton, his likely Democratic opponent, for what he termed her support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, and pressed her to commit to ripping up the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal should she be elected president.
"We should seek a guarantee from Hillary Clinton that she won't sign it," Trump said.
Trump rattled off job loss statistics for battleground states and mentioned specific sections of Nafta he said he’d renegotiate.
Since the passage of Nafta, Trump said the Granite State has lost 31 percent of its manufacturing jobs. In Pennsylvania, the figure has been 36 percent, Trump said, and in Ohio it stands at 34 percent. In case the several-dozen attendees seated on folding chairs in a sweltering parking lot weren't sure, Trump quickly reminded them it was President Bill Clinton, backed by his wife, who had signed the pact into law.
“You’re looking here at a plant and the wreckage of Nafta and the wreckage of China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization,” he said. “Now they want to go into TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership. That will in my opinion make Nafta look like a baby.”
Clinton has largely not engaged Trump on the subject of trade, but has noted inconsistencies with the billionaire's past business practices and his current rhetoric.
Speaking in Ohio on Wednesday, Trump called the Asian trade deal “the rape of our country.”
In New Hampshire, he said that he doesn’t believe members of Congress and government officials have fully vetted the TPP proposal, which he said will outsource more U.S. jobs to Mexico.
At one point, a plane flew over the event and Trump quipped it was a Mexican plane “getting ready to attack.”
He added that opposition to global economic accords is one thing that united him and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran against Clinton in the Democratic primary.
"I think we're going to get a lot of the Bernie Sanders voters," Trump said. "He knew that trade deals are terrible and I know that trade deals are terrible. The difference is that I can fix trade deals and make them phenomenal."