During Ohio University Eastern Rally, Donald Trump Blasts Trade Agreements

Trump greets supporters as he exits the rally.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — During a Tuesday rally at Ohio University Eastern, Donald Trump blamed free trade agreements President Bill Clinton signed in the 1990s for the ultimate closure of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and most of the former Weirton Steel Corp.

In his blistering 48-minute speech to an estimated crowd of 4,000 at OUE’s Health and Physical Fitness Center in St. Clairsville, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee ripped presumed Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton for endorsing her husband’s free trade policies. These deals include the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which led to the creation of the World Trade Organization.

“Ohio has lost one in three manufacturing jobs since Bill Clinton signed an agreement to put China into the World Trade Organization. Not good,” Trump said. “He also signed NAFTA, which was a total disaster, right? NAFTA has done more to destroy your community than any other single act. It was signed by Bill Clinton, and I assume Hillary was there watching over him.”

The Ohio Valley was once a manufacturing powerhouse, earning thousands of workers middle class incomes. Most of these jobs have steadily left the region during the last four decades, and Trump believes the trade agreements exacerbated the decline.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a new trade agreement that President Barack Obama favors. The nations that would join the U.S. in the deal would be Vietnam, Mexico, Chile, Canada, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Australia, Brunei, Singapore and New Zealand.

Although Hillary Clinton said during the Democratic primary that she now opposes the TPP agreement, Trump said he does not believe her. If elected, Trump said he would withdraw the U.S. from participating in the new partnership.

“It’s going to be worse than NAFTA, folks,” Trump said.

Trump also said he would consider withdrawing from NAFTA altogether if fellow members Mexico and Canada are unwilling to renegotiate the terms.

“We’re letting our jobs go to Mexico,” he said. “If I win, they are going to respect our country again. China rips us off left and right. We are going to bring our jobs back to this country.”

Trump also said both Democrats and Republicans have left working-class voters behind, as he said many of them have not seen a real wage increase for 18 years.

“Hillary Clinton is owned by Wall Street,” Trump said. “Hillary is never going to bring your jobs back, folks.”

Prior to arriving at OUE Tuesday, Trump held a private fundraising event at WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling, sponsored by Murray Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Robert E. Murray.

While praising Murray, Trump bashed Clinton for a remark in which she said coal companies and miners would be “out of business” because of the transition to clean energy.

“It’s not going to happen,” Trump said. “We’re going to win for our miners, that I can tell you.”

Although Trump lost the Buckeye State’s Republican primary to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the billionaire businessman easily outpaced Kasich in the eastern Ohio counties of Belmont, Monroe, Harrison and Jefferson. Trump made no reference to Kasich Tuesday, but did acknowledge Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, for attending.

Trump supporters continued pouring into the venue well after the candidate began speaking, as they filled the floor usually reserved for basketball games.

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