Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Romney's Plan to Tame the Chinese Trade Dragon

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Romney's Plan to Tame the Chinese Trade Dragon

Article excerpt

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney breaks from the GOP's free- trade past with a plan to curb China's predatory trade practices with threats of retaliation. He's playing with fire.

A mood of economic urgency pervades America's political scene. And it's one that lends itself to sweeping proposals for job creation.

President Obama lays out his latest ideas Thursday. But one radical proposal from a leading Republican presidential candidate has the potential to shake up the national debate - as well as the global economy for the rest of the 21st century.

In a speech today, Mitt Romney took an unusual step for a GOP leader. He suggested the United States restrict trade with China over its many predatory tactics that hurt foreign businesses - from stealing patents to reneging on contracts to allowing fake Apple stores to outright bans on certain imports or services.

Mr. Romney promises to form a partnership of countries committed to free enterprise and free trade that will confront China for "free- riding on the international system."

"I have no interest in starting a trade war with China," Romney stated, "but I cannot accept our current trade surrender."

His plan to force reciprocity in trade on China runs counter to a Republican tradition of generously keeping US markets open while tolerating many trade barriers in poorer nations in hopes they will grow into responsible free-trade partners and export markets.

But China is not just any poor country, given its demographic girth and world market-skewing ways. Estimates vary but as much as 40 percent of US manufacturing jobs may have been lost to China since it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) a decade ago.

And the Republican Party, too, has not been its old free-trade self because of the tea party. That loose band of America-first conservatives champions a brand of economic isolationism. And Romney is eager to win its endorsements.

The former Massachusetts governor is also bucking that part of the GOP helped by donations from the big corporations doing well in China - corporations that moved many factories out of the US. These firms have long had a loud voice in trade policy. …

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