BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday mocked rival Mitt Romney’s claim that the White House has been weak on trade policies with China, casting the Republican’s complaints as “newfound outrage.”
As both presidential candidates courted working-class voters in the crucial state of Ohio, the Democratic president said his administration has been aggressive in filing trade complaints against Beijing with the World Trade Organization.
Obama defended his economic policies, which he said give U.S. workers opportunity against foreign competition. He also took a shot at Romney by recalling the former Massachusetts governor’s work as a private equity executive at Bain Capital, whose restructuring of companies sometimes led jobs to move from the United States to other countries, including China.
“He’s been talking tough on China,” Obama said in a speech at Bowling Green State University. “When you hear you this newfound outrage, when you see these ads he’s running promising to get tough on China, it feels a lot like that fox saying, ‘You know, we need more secure chicken coops.'”
Romney has criticized Obama as not being tough enough in pushing back against Chinese trade practices that have led to cheap goods flooding the U.S. market and killing American jobs.
The Republican challenger campaigned with running mate Paul Ryan in Ohio on Tuesday, and Romney made more stops in the state on Wednesday while Ryan moved on to Colorado, another battleground state in the November 6 presidential election.
Confronted with polls that have shown Obama building significant leads in the key states of Ohio and Florida, the Republicans have sought to reach out to working-class voters while bashing Obama on foreign policy and his handling of trade with China, a big concern in manufacturing states such as Ohio that have seen some jobs go overseas.
Romney and Ryan have accused China, the United States’ biggest lender and major trading partner, of a range of trade abuses, including currency manipulation and intellectual property theft.
In Bowling Green, Obama said the idea that his administration had not done enough to protect U.S. interests in trading with China was “just not credible.”
“If you want to know who is actually going to fight for workers and fight for American workers, when it comes to trade, you can look at the records,” he said.
Many U.S. manufacturers and lawmakers complain that China deliberately undervalues it currency to give its companies an unfair price advantage in international trade.
Obama can point to a significant rise in the value of China’s yuan since he took office, but he has disappointed some supporters by not formally declaring China a currency manipulator, a move that would require his administration to press for the revaluation of the yuan.
Treasury and other officials are reluctant to do that because the Chinese government owns more than $1 trillion in U.S. sovereign debt.
Additional reporting by Margaret Chadbourn in Washington; Editing by David Lindsey and Doina Chiacu