Despite the fact that both presidential candidates are trying to position themselves as the man who will finally get tough on China and help reduce the U.S. trade deficit, track records show neither really has the credentials.
Mitt Romney has said on the campaign trail that he would label China a “currency manipulator” on his first day in the oval office, but this has done little to sway House GOP members to vote on a bill, passed by the Senate nearly a year ago, that would accomplish this.
President Obama, meanwhile, has taken small steps but also refused to press Congress on the matter. China’s economy has begun to slow meaning they it is likely to double down on aggressive, anti-competitive trade policy to maintain the economic power it still enjoys.
During a Tuesday press call organized by Campaign for America’s Future, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) was asked about Romney’s claims that he is a stronger candidate than President Obama in terms of taking on China.
“Gov. Romney taking this tack against the president is laughable, quite frankly,” Ryan told reporters on the call.
Congressman Ryan’s Ohio 17th District covers the rust belt towns of Youngstown, Warren and Akron, one of the areas hardest hit by China’s anti-competitive policies. The area is home to many car part manufacturing plants and tire companies. Ryan noted that President Obama’s emergency tariffs on Chinese tire imports and steel tubing have had major economic effects on his district. He claimed the tire tariff alone likely saved nearly 1,000 jobs in Eastern Ohio. Until 1990, Akron was the “rubber capital of the world.” The effect of Chinese imports are very clear to Akronites, many of whom had family members working in the industry.
Romney’s history of outsourcing jobs to the Far East makes his “I’m more left than Obama on China” stance hard to believe. Further, Romney has come out against tariffs on China enacted by both president Obama and President Bush. In a recent post looking at the candidates’ respective positions on this issue, CNN called Romney’s track record into question.
What we know of Romney’s track record is less than encouraging. He has profited from shuttering American factories and reopening them in China and other low-wage countries. According to our analysis, his tax proposals would further widen the loopholes that incentivize corporate offshoring. And his gaffe-laden trip this summer to London, Poland, and Israel drew rebukes even from Republican political operative Karl Rove….
…Romney pledges to increase funding for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to enforce the rules of fair trade. So does President Obama, who allocated the office an additional $80 million in his proposed budget, which was ultimately obstructed by conservatives in Congress. Going beyond just proposing more money for trade enforcement, Obama created an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center to make our government smarter and more effective at ensuring a level playing field for U.S. workers and businesses competing in the global economy.
Yet Romney, ever audacious, continues to paint the President as weak on China, especially in the battleground states where polling has favored the President. During a campaign stop in Ohio on Tuesday, Romney promised to stop “China’s cheating trade practices.”
“People in Ohio can sell products anywhere, and can compete with anyone in the world. I understand when we trade and when other nations trade on a fair basis, we will create jobs. I understand when people cheat that kills jobs. China has cheated. I will not allow that to continue,” Romney said.
Congressman Ryan laments the fact that there is tougher talk on the campaign trail than there is in the oval office itself. He suggests that pressure on the White House to influence Congress has ramped with respect to a currency manipulation bill. “We have been encouraging the administration to do that, and we will continue to do that,” he says.
A new Washington Post poll shows President Obama ahead of Governor Romney by a 52-44 margin in Ohio. Congressman Ryan adds that many in Ohio simply will not vote for Romney due to his aggressive campaigning in favor of last year’s Issue 2. Issue 2 was a referendum on SB-5, a bill that cut collective bargaining rights for public employees including police, firefighters, and teachers. In the end, 61 percent of Ohioans voted against it.
Polling on China-specific questions, though, does not show the same Obama-leaning response. A new Pew Poll shows 45 percent of Americans do not think he is tough enough on China.
It is easy to argue that President Obama has not done enough, but it is equally as easy to argue in favor of the President over Romney on the matter of trade. From CNN’s Hanna Zhu:
Continued progress on Sino-American economic relations requires a steady and experienced hand at the controls in the next four years, as China’s weakening economy increases the likelihood it will resort to anticompetitive practices. Romney’s background as an outsourcing pioneer with limited diplomatic experience and a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric should give U.S. voters pause in November.