Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden participate in their last presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 22, 2020. (Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)

A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.

President Joe Biden is little like former President Donald Trump on any issue.

Foreign policy is one of their biggest differences, with the current president embracing the NATO alliance as his predecessor and likely 2024 rival has slammed it as obsolete. But Biden is also making a subtle shift on trade toward Trump and Maine, showing that our long-held skepticism of sweeping trade deals is gaining national prominence.

The context: While Biden was vice president under Barack Obama, he supported a landmark trade deal with Pacific countries that was opposed by an odd coalition of labor unions, progressives and Trump, who was staking out a position against free trade that was antithetical to most major figures in the Republican Party to that point.

After Trump won the 2016 election, he shut down the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a decision emblematic of what The Washington Post termed his “go-it-alone” strategy on trade and other international issues. Since Biden took over, he has not restarted that deal and has instead turned against sweeping trade deals in favor of more limited agreements with other nations.

Biden’s goal — not unlike Trump’s — is to boost American manufacturing. A recent critique of the current president’s strategy says he is trying to accomplish two goals that are in conflict: building “more resilient global supply chains” to marginalize China, which is something that requires free trade with other countries, while also trying to goose domestic investment.

On the ground: Mainers have had a front-row view to this kind of trade politics for decades. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement may have cost the state hundreds of manufacturing jobs, according to a study for the Legislature. Opposition to free-trade deals has been bipartisan from the congressional delegation all the way down to local politics. In 2016, the Legislature took a unanimous symbolic vote against the Pacific trade deal.

This history made Trump’s argument somewhat potent in Maine, especially when he ran against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who opposed the Pacific deal then but had made statements supporting it while in Obama’s Cabinet. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, signed off on NAFTA, giving her identification with deals that Mainers have long abhorred.

Trump won Maine’s 2nd District in 2016, becoming the first Republican to win any electors here since 1988. After replacing NAFTA in a way that led to continued skepticism in Maine, he won the district again in a 2020 campaign with Biden that featured more arguments over the effect of Trump’s tariffs than debate over the intricacies and effects of trade deals.

What’s next: Biden’s shift toward Trump may take this issue off the table in any 2024 race between the two. But the president’s move away from consensus 1990s-style on free trade shows that Maine’s long-held views on the subject are beginning to take political precedence across the country.

Trump has played a major role in that, even if he and Biden have gone about international issues in totally different ways during their presidencies.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...