Trade policy: the great unspoken at VP debate


Is it me or did one of Donald J. Trump’s signature issues in this presidential campaign go unnoticed?

I refer to the issue of trade policy.

The Republican presidential nominee has declared ad nauseam that the North American Free Trade Agreement is one of the “worst trade deals in history.” He has opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has vowed to renegotiate NAFTA immediately upon taking office next January.

Neither of the two men who are running for vice president, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, talked about trade policy.

In fairness to the candidates, moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News didn’t ask either of them about trade policy.

The question I would have wanted her to pose would have been to Pence. It would go something like this:

“Gov. Pence, you are a traditional Republican. You served in Congress as a traditional Republican lawmaker and your party has been a free-trade party. Why have you changed your mind on NAFTA and why do you oppose TPP?”

She could have asked Pence that question, but she didn’t.

Pence has a long career as a traditional Republican conservative as a lawmaker and as a governor. Trump has no public service career and he has sounded as populist on trade as, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

This debate between Kaine and Pence could have helped clear up some of the confusion on trade that Trump has created with his ferocious opposition to trade policy that many within his party have supported.

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