Romney’s Inaction On China Speaks Louder Than Words

Isaiah J. Poole

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been all bluster and no action on China’s cheating on trade, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan said today, and the proof is in a bill that would address China’s cheating that is currently languishing in the House despite broad, bipartisan support.

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Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Alliance for American Manufacturing executive director Scott Paul discuss the effects of China trade cheating, legislation designed to address currency manipulation, and presidential campaign attack ads on Chinese trade.

House Republican leaders are opposed to bringing the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act to the House floor even though the bill has 234 cosponsors and is similar to a bill that passed the Senate handily last October and one that passed the House by a substantial margin in 2010.

Ryan said in a call organized by the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the Campaign for America’s Future that Romney has done nothing to break the legislative logjam, which makes his criticism of President Obama “laughable,” he said. “They have zero credibility on this issue,” he said of Romney and House Republican leaders.

While the legislation would apply to any country, it is designed to address China’s undervaluing of its currency, which has the effect of lowering the cost of China’s exports and raising the price of goods imported into China.

Romney has said in campaign ads that he would name China a currency manipulator “on day one,” and on Monday campaign spokesman Andrea Saul underscored the pledge while accusing President Obama of “leading from behind on taking on China.”

Ryan, however, said that it’s Romney and House Republican leaders who are not leading at all. Ryan, who is one of the cosponsors of the bill with Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., said that if Romney was serious about the currency manipulation issue, “he should have been calling on Speaker [John] Boehner to bring up my bill, knowing that he would get 350 votes.”

Back in October Boehner pulled out the stops to keep Republicans who supported the currency bill from signing a discharge petition that would have forced a floor vote on the bill, according to The Hill newspaper. It is true that what one Democrat described as President Obama’s “wishy-washy” position on the bill was a factor in allowing Boehner to successfully block the bill from moving forward; more muscle from the Obama White House could well have overcome Republican leadership resistance.

That still does not excuse Romney’s own inaction with regard to the legislation. Nor does it nullify the fact that the Obama White House has in fact taken significant actions to counter China’s trade cheating. In 2009 the administration imposed tariffs on China’s tire exports, a move that elicited howls from the right. The next year the administration slapped tariffs on copper tubes that it said were being dumped into the U.S. market. A few weeks ago, before Romney unleashed his China campaign ads, the administration initiated a World Trade Organization complaint against Chinese duties on American-made vehicles, which had the effect of limiting the American-made share of China’s 18-million-car market in 2011 to just over 100,000 vehicles.

As Ryan was speaking today, the Department of Labor announced that it was launching a $40 million “Make It In America Challenge,” which would give awards to companies that develop plans to “insource” manufacturing jobs and train American workers to do those jobs. “This initiative will provide comprehensive assistance to those companies and those communities committed to ‘make it in America’ through innovative training programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials and arm our workforce with the skills employers want to see from day one,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

It’s a sharp contrast from what we have been chronicling on our sister site, The Bain of Our Existence, which among other things chronicles the efforts of Bain Capital-owned companies to export jobs to China, including those of the Sensata auto parts workers in Illinois. As Leo Gerard writes today, “The workers at Sensata have publicly begged Romney to intervene with Bain on their behalf to keep the factory in the United States. They’ve collected 35,000 signatures supporting their cause. They’ve got the backing of the Freeport City Council, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. They’re camping outside the factory in a tent city called Bainport. But Romney hasn’t responded. No word from the candidate who claims to love American cars.”

It all amounts to inaction that speaks louder than campaign words.

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