Clinton, Trump Trade Jabs Over Steel at Final Presidential Debate

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Oct 20 2016 |
Hillary Clinton hit Donald Trump for using Chinese-made steel in his buildings multiple times during Wednesday night’s debate, including with this tweetable line referenced by CNN.

Trump hits Clinton on the TPP, while Clinton points out Trump’s history of using Chinese-made steel.

The third and final presidential debate of 2016 was pretty meme-worthy — Bad Hombres! Nasty Woman! Puppets! Steel!

Uh, steel?

Look, nobody is more surprised than us. But the last debate actually managed to focus quite a bit on policy, and Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic contender Hillary Clinton ended up on China’s dumping of steel into the U.S. market.

And it struck a nerve online.

Here’s what went down. Moderator Chris Wallace asked the two candidates about their tax plans, and Trump used it as an opportunity to attack Clinton on trade, including President Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA. Trump, who has made the trade issue a key part of his presidential campaign, said he’s visited communities badly hurt by “product [that] is pouring in from China, pouring in from Vietnam, pouring in from all over the world.”

Trump then seized the chance to point out that Hillary Clinton supported the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

“Now she wants to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And she wants it,” Trump said. “She lied when she said she didn’t call it the gold standard in one of the debates. She totally lied… and they fact checked, and they said I was right. I was so honored.”

Trump’s honor aside, it is indeed true that Clinton initially supported the TPP. She has since come out against it, which was her response again last night. “When I saw the final agreement for TPP, I said I was against it. It didn’t meet my test,” she said.

Rather than talk about the TPP at greater length — a tricky issue for her — Clinton quickly pivoted to steel:

But he mentioned China. And you know, one of the biggest problems we have with China is the illegal dumping of steel and aluminum into our markets. I have fought against that as a senator. I’ve stood up against it as secretary of state.

Donald has bought Chinese steel and aluminum. In fact, the Trump Hotel right here in Las Vegas was made with Chinese steel. So he goes around with crocodile tears about how terrible it is, but he has given jobs to Chinese steelworkers, not American steelworkers.

But wait, there’s more!

Later on in the debate, the candidates were talking about their “fitness” to be president, and this exchange went down:

Trump: I mean, I sat in my apartment today on a very beautiful hotel down the street known as Trump…
Clinton: Made with Chinese steel.


Look, we ran an explainer last week outlining why the two candidates are talking about steel so much, but basically it comes down to this — tens of thousands of Americans have faced layoffs because of China’s massive steel overcapacity. Trump has made standing up to China a key part of his messaging, but he also has frequently used Chinese-made steel in his construction projects (including at his hotel in Las Vegas, which is the apartment he referenced).

Not surprisingly, Clinton criticizes him for it (especially while campaigning in manufacturing states like Ohio). When she did again last night, people noticed.

Here’s director Ava DuVernay on Twitter, for example:

And a few others, including Trump's favorite celeb:  

Election Day is less than three weeks away, but there’s no telling what other issues and controversies will pop up between these two candidates in the meantime.

Regardless of what happens, China’s steel overcapacity is a serious problem that has global ramifications. The candidate who wins on Nov. 8 is going to have to figure out how best to deal with it.