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Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton went head-to-head last night in the Presidential debate at the Hofstra University in New York. Source: IOL

WASHINGTON, D.C. – US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton opened their highly anticipated debate last night by sparring on trade, taxes and other economic policies.

Clinton said voters must ask themselves which candidate can shoulder the responsibilities of the presidency, while Trump zeroed in on renegotiating trade deals.

She said US voters “have to judge us” and ask themselves who can enact the policies that will make their lives better.

“The central question in this election is, really, what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we’ll build together,” Clinton said in the opening remarks of her debate.

Trump, the Republican, said the US should renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by her husband Bill Clinton when he was president.

“We have to renegotiate our trade deals and we have to stop these countries from stealing our companies and our jobs,” Trump said.

He also said under his plan taxes would be reduced “tremendously,” which he says “is going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan.”

Trump displayed the brash style he is known for early on in the debate, responding to one of Clinton’s remarks by saying, “Typical politician: All talk, no action.”

Trump said he would release his tax returns if Clinton released deleted emails from the private server she used as secretary of state.

“This is something the American people deserve to see,” Clinton says of Trump’s taxes. “There’s something he’s hiding and we’ll continue to guess at what that is.”

Trump has said he would not release his tax returns because they are being audited, but said would go against the advice of his lawyers if Clinton were to agree to release her emails.

Clinton said it was a mistake to use the private server rather than government email.

The two candidates shook hands after walking onto the stage at Hofstra University in New York.

The 90-minute contest will feature questions about the direction of the country, the economy and national security. The number of viewers could reach 100 million.

Clinton, a Democrat whose political career spans four decades, is widely seen as the better debater. Trump, who made his name in real estate and reality television, has a bombastic and unpredictable style that could make him a tricky opponent.

The stakes are high as both candidates attempt to improve their standing among voters in the final weeks ahead of the November 8 election.

An opinion poll released Monday showed a dead heat at the national level. But the presidential election is won state-by-state – especially so-called swing states – and by that measure Clinton still
has a slight advantage.

– DPA