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Briefing Book : U.S. Candidates' Stands on Foreign Issues : * All of President Bush's major challengers want a sterner line on China. Democrats say he is too tough on Israel. Free trade is a bit of a free-for-all.

March 17, 1992|NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — With exit polls showing that primary voters are mainly concerned about domestic issues, President Bush and the three Democrats and one Republican trying to take his job have avoided making foreign policy a major issue. But some important differences have emerged.

All of Bush's opponents--Democrats Bill Clinton, Paul E. Tsongas and Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., and Republican Patrick J. Buchanan--advocate a much sterner line toward China than the President has adopted. The Democrats would end trade concessions unless China improves its human rights record and takes other steps, while Buchanan would downgrade relations regardless.

The Democrats all say Bush has been too tough in his relationship with Israel.

The differences on foreign trade, a key issue in an economics-dominated election, may be more apparent than real. Although all the other candidates complain that Bush is too committed to free trade and has failed to protect U.S. companies and their workers, none of them have advocated overtly protectionist policies.

All the candidates want to cut the defense budget. But Bush's rivals want to cut spending more deeply than he does.

TRADE

President Bush (Republican): He addresses the issue in the language of free trade. "To succeed economically at home, we need to lead economically abroad. Economic leadership means markets for American products, jobs for American workers and growing room for the American dream. The American people do not believe in isolationism because they believe in themselves." He advocates creating a North American free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that will remove most trade barriers among the three nations. However, he hopes to impose quota restrictions on Japanese cars and some other imports.

Patrick J. Buchanan (Republican): "No American wants a trade war, but we have to stop being trade wimps," Buchanan says. He says he is ready to threaten retaliation if other nations fail to open their markets to U.S. goods. "Play hardball in trade talks," he says. "Rather than lecture Japan's cartelists on the beauties of free trade, U.S. negotiators should demand reciprocity. No nation should enjoy a huge, permanent trade surplus with the United States while walling off its domestic market."

Gov. Bill Clinton (Democrat): "Freer trade abroad means more jobs at home," he has said. Nevertheless, he complains that the United States has suffered because some of its competitors have taken advantage of its free-trade policy. He says it is time to change that. "Government must ensure that international competition is fair by insisting that our European, Japanese and other trading partners play by the same rules."

Paul E. Tsongas (Democrat): "We are becoming an economic colony. America is up for sale. One percent of Japan's manufacturing base is foreign-owned; 2% of Germany's; 3% of France's. Ours is 18% and growing rapidly." However, he has not suggested overtly protectionist trade policies. Instead, he insists that the balance can be redressed by improving America's overall economic structure.

Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. (Democrat): "Fast-track legislation isn't the answer to North American trade problems," he says, referring to the Administration's plan to accelerate negotiations for a North American free-trade agreement. "While we have to integrate Canada, Mexico and America, we shouldn't do it overnight, and we shouldn't do it at the expense of jobs or the environment or the fabric of our community. We need to have people representing the interests of average American workers because those people are getting trampled as the big corporate executives steamroll down the fast track."

ISRAELI LOAN GUARANTEES

Bush: The dispute over terms for $10 billion in loan guarantees, which Israel is seeking to resettle Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, has generated an unusually high level of tension between the traditional allies. Bush is demanding a freeze on West Bank and Gaza settlements as a condition for the loan; Israel refuses to stop its building program.

Bush says he supports U.S. assistance to provide housing and jobs for the immigrants but objects to Israel's using the funds, even indirectly, to pay for settlements in the occupied territories.

Buchanan: "At a time when many Americans are losing their homes or having trouble meeting the mortgage or the rent, taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize Israeli settlements 10,000 miles away."

Clinton: "I think the loan guarantees should be approved" because to continue to delay assistance to Israel to resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union will "undermine a 20-year humanitarian policy." However, he has indicated that he sees some merit in the Administration's effort to prevent the U.S.-guaranteed loans from making it easier for the Israeli government to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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