LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a plan on Thursday that would end Republican President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, but would also demand that China stop unfair practices such as currency manipulation and corporate espionage.
The former Texas congressman said that, if elected president he would immediately eliminate Trump’s tariffs against Chinese goods, demanding in exchange that China revoke its retaliatory tariffs against American products including soybeans, beef and cars, which have been hurting U.S. farmers and manufacturers.
O’Rourke, 46, said his trade policy would prioritize American workers over corporate interests. At the same time, he said he would lead a global effort, through modernizing the World Trade Organization, to stop China’s anti-competitive behavior.
“Trade is not the problem - Trump is,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “His trade war has been a disaster for American farmers and workers - but it’s on us to offer a compelling alternative.”
Trump has defended his tariff war with China, saying it will benefit American producers in the long run and that his get-tough stance with China is hugely popular with his electoral base.
Trump’s trade war with China has been part of a disruptive overall trade policy. While president he has renegotiated the NAFTA trade deal with Canada and Mexico, and sought new bilateral deals with Asian and European nations.
His policies, which run counter to the Republican Party’s traditional embrace of unfettered free trade, have left many Democratic candidates unsure of how to address the issue. Free trade agreements such as NAFTA are unpopular with many Democratic voters because they believe the deal led to the exporting of U.S. jobs overseas.
Most of the 20 candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee to take on Trump in next year’s November election have attacked his trade war with China, saying it hurts U.S. workers and companies. But many also share Trump’s view that China uses unfair trade practices.
Another 2020 Democratic candidate, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, released a trade plan last month.
It echoed some of Trump’s claims that previous trade deals have been unfair to American workers, but included more liberal remedies such as a “border carbon adjustment” tax that would be levied against imported goods that use a carbon intensive manufacturing process. She also wants to greatly reduce corporate America’s influence in how trade deals are negotiated.
Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Sandra Maler