CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence softened his support for free trade during a campaign stop at a North Carolina pipe-fitting factory on Wednesday.
Pence was an outspoken supporter of deals such at the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he voted for in Congress and has said helped the economy in his home state Indiana, where he is now governor.
But his new boss, Republican nominee Donald Trump, has made opposition to such trade agreements a centerpiece of his economic agenda.
On Wednesday, speaking at Charlotte Pipe and Foundry in an event that was not open to the public, Pence told workers there free trade agreements need to be better enforced to ensure partner countries are not violating rules meant to ensure even competition and equal access to markets for all participants.
Pence criticized “the policies that have come out of administrations, frankly, in both political parties,” Politico reported. “We have not been smart, we have not been tough in defending American jobs and American workers when it comes to international trade, and that’s about to change.”
When in Congress, Pence repeatedly praised free trade deals and as governor he expressed support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between the United States and 10 Pacific rim nations.
Pence has since backed away from his unqualified support for TPP, saying the United States should only negotiate bilaterally with individual countries, and avoid complex, massive trade deals that involve hundreds of millions of consumers and billions in goods bought and sold annually.