The Washington Post looks at the Obama and Romney records on China/outsourcing

Posted by scapozzola on 07/10/2012

Here at ManufactureThis, we've been running a fairly non-stop bit of coverage on the campaign rhetoric of both President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The bottom lines, as we see them:

  • Obama talked tough on China in the 2008 campaign, especially on China's deliberate currency manipulation.  However, he has not designated China as a currency manipulator since taking office.  His administration has filed trade cases against China, though, and has instituted safeguards on surging Chinese tires.
  • Romney has been taking flak lately for his record at Bain Capital, which has been characterized as very pro-outsourcing.  However, Romney has been campaigning on a very hard-line China message.  Specifically, he has promised to designate China as a currency manipulator and has also vowed to bar China from access to U.S. government contracts until U.S. firms receive reciprocal access.

The Washington Post came to much the same conclusion today in a piece by Zachary Goldfarb, Carol Leonnig, and Tom Hamburger.  In an article headlined "Obama’s record on outsourcing draws criticism from the left," Goldfarb, Leonnig, and Hamburger see the Obama Administration as having a mixed record on trade:

Obama’s critics, primarily on the political left, say he has repeatedly failed in other ways to protect American jobs from being moved overseas.

The Post article quotes the Alliance for American Manufacturing's (AAM) Executive Director Scott Paul, who expressed frustration with the Obama Administration's failure to effectively tackle China's currency undervaluation:

But Obama’s critics say the most important step the president could take — but hasn’t — is to declare China a 'currency manipulator,' which could ultimately allow the U.S. government to erect tariffs to protect American industries.

'I’m perplexed by this decision because it runs counter to the goal of re-shoring jobs from China,' Scott Paul, head of the labor-backed Alliance for American Manufacturing, said in a May statement.

Many economists say that China manipulates foreign exchange markets to keep the value of its currency, the renminbi, lower than it would be if freely traded — a practice that makes it more attractive for companies to hire workers there rather than employ them in the United States. Romney says he would declare a China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

Romney comes in for the same mixed reviews, however.  As mentioned above, Romney may have a questionable track record, but his campaign pledges are hitting Obama in key weak spots.

The great thing about such campaign give-and-take is that it may indeed lead to long overdue action on China.

Read more.

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