By Philip Rucker
Republican Mitt Romney said Thursday that the United States was enduring "a trade surrender" and that if elected president, he would crack down on foreign importers who circumvent trade rules and take a tougher stance with China over intellectual property violations.
"If you cheat, there's a huge advantage," Romney said. "Fortunately in most of our lives, we find a way to stop the cheaters. . . we haven't done that with regards to trade. China, in particular, has realized the extraordinary advantage to cheating."
In remarks delivered at Microsoft's corporate headquarters near Seattle, a major port city for trans-Pacific trade, Romney accused the Chinese of stealing U.S. designs, patents, know-how and technologies.
"I want to make sure that people we trade with follow the rules and if someone consistently cheats, I want to make sure they understand that can't go on," Romney said.
Standing before a giant Microsoft logo at the software giant's Redmond, Wash., offices, Romney called for opening global markets for U.S. goods and services. Romney said trading with other nations "is very good for a high productivity nation like ours," but accused President Obama of standing in the way of free trade.
Romney lamented that it took three years for Congress to pass free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. During that time, Romney said, European Union nations and China negotiated or finalized 44 trade agreements with China.
"Despite the fact that trade is good for us, over the last few years our nation has been asleep at the switch," Romney said.
Obama's political team pushed back, saying the administration has pursued "strong" intellectual property enforcement, has pressed China repeatedly on monetary policy and is implementing World Trade Organization safeguards designed to protect U.S. products.
"President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to make sure China plays by the rules," the Democratic National Committee said in a statement. "He's made clear that he will enforce America's trade laws and stand with American workers."
More than any other candidate in the GOP presidential race, Romney has seized on China as a campaign issue, repeatedly talking tough about the Asian nation and labeling it a "cheater" and a "currency manipulator."
Romney's trade policy agenda includes imposing punitive tariffs on some Chinese products. He also calls for working together with other developed nations to impose intellectual property sanctions and block the transfer into China of some highly prized technologies.
Romney's trade policy agenda includes imposing punitive tariffs on some Chinese products. He also calls for working together with other developed nations to impose intellectual property sanctions and to block the transfer into China of some highly prized technologies.
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who until earlier this year served as Obama's ambassador to China, has criticized Romney's posture.
"First of all, I don't subscribe to the Donald Trump school or the Mitt Romney school of international trade. I don't want to find ourselves in a trade war," Huntsman said in Tuesday's Washington Post-Bloomberg debate.