ROMULUS, Mich. -- GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday criticized former President Donald Trump by arguing the fellow Republican would "mislead" American workers at a speech scheduled later in the day in Macomb County because he backs policies that would hurt them.
Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas, also criticized Democratic President Joe Biden for visiting a UAW picket line on Tuesday, saying "it tilts the balance of negotiations" between the union and the Detroit Three automakers. The UAW is on Day 13 of its strike against the three automakers, and U.S. presidents have traditionally not taken sides in most strikes or labor negotiations.
Trump skipped the second GOP debate in California on Wednesday night and instead gave a speech at a non-union Clinton Township automotive supplier. Hutchinson wasn't at the debate, either, because he wasn't among the seven candidates who qualified for it.
Hutchinson told a group of reporters at the Detroit Metro Airport Marriott that "there is a more important debate going on right here in Detroit" that affects America's families and the country's future.
"I'm here in Detroit, because I want to debate," he said at a Wednesday morning press conference. "Donald Trump is here in Detroit tonight because he wants to avoid a debate. And I would love to have the opportunity to debate Donald Trump on his policies, on his support of workers and bringing back manufacturing in the United States."
Hutchinson mentioned Trump's idea of enacting, as Bloomberg reports, a 10% tariff on goods from all countries brought into the U.S. A higher tariff would raise the cost of goods for consumers.
"Let me tell you, that would be the most significant harm that could be done to the American worker," he said.
Hutchinson also mentioned a New York judge's Tuesday ruling that Trump committed fraud for years while constructing his real estate empire. Hutchinson said Trump is similarly guilty of "persistent and repeated fraud" on American workers.
"Trump is in town tonight," he said, "and he will mislead our workers, just like he misled bankers in New York."
Hutchinson has a history of criticizing the former president and, when he announced his candidacy, called on Trump to drop out of the race.
Hutchinson also said Wednesday he doesn't think Biden should have been at a UAW picket line -- the president went to one in Van Buren Township on Tuesday -- and said "there's a reason presidents don't do that."
"That's a heavy hand tilting the scales," he said.
Hutchinson said elected leaders should "let the process work" by letting a company's management negotiate with representatives of laborers.
Hutchinson, as a GOP presidential candidate, presented his plans for U.S. manufacturing at the press conference. He said he would slow down the Biden administration's push for electric vehicles with "arbitrary timelines" for manufacturers. During his last appearance in Michigan in June, Trump said the "maniacal push" for electric vehicles would kill U.S. auto jobs.
"The goal of 50% of new vehicles sold being electric vehicles by 2030 gives a false narrative of what the consumers want and what they need -- and what our manufacturers can do," Hutchinson said. "And that false narrative has created an imbalance in the environment here in the automobile manufacturing industry."
Hutchinson also said that as president, he would negotiate fair trade agreements that benefit U.S. workers and don't provoke trade wars. He noted that he would work to "bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States" and mentioned his work bringing steel facilities to Arkansas.
He also criticized the comments of GOP presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina about workers on strike. The UAW last week filed a labor complaint against Scott for saying workers should be fired for going on strike, telling reporters he would, if possible, emulate former President Ronald Reagan who fired thousands of striking air traffic controllers in 1981.
Hutchinson argued that he is "the most pro-union Republican" in the presidential race.