A new TV commercial from Mitt Romney's campaign accuses President Obama of contributing to American job losses by showing weakness toward China, a line of attack that has proved popular for Romney on the stump.
The ad, set for release Tuesday, blames Obama for failing to stop China from stealing American intellectual property, and draws a direct line from that to the loss of 2.1 million U.S. jobs. As images scroll by of a shuttered factory and a "Made in China" bar code, a narrator intones: "Fewer Americans are working today than when President Obama took office. It doesn't have to be this way … if Obama would stand up to China."
Romney almost always brings up China in his stump speeches, accusing Obama of failing to stand up to Beijing and to label it as a currency manipulator -- an act he promises to undertake on his first day in office.
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The Obama administration has taken an increasingly tough line with China on trade practices, but has stopped short of labeling it a currency manipulator, despite acknowledging that Beijing significantly undervalues the yuan.
That keeps Chinese goods cheap and contributes to a trade imbalance with the United States.
Just a week ago, Obama announced that it had filed a new complaint with the World Trade Organization accusing China of illegally subsidizing exports of its automobiles and auto parts. The Obama campaign says the president has filed more complaints against China with the WTO in his first term than President George W. Bush did in two terms.
However, as with prior presidents, Obama has been hesitant to take actions that could trigger a trade war with China, whose holdings in U.S. Treasury securities give it the potential to wreak considerable damage on the country's economy.
In his new ad, Romney accuses China of stealing American ideas for "everything from computers to fighter jets" and says there were "seven times Obama could have taken action" but failed to do so. That was a reference to the Treasury Department's semiannual reports on exchange-rate policies, the vehicle through which the government could label China a currency manipulator.
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The ad claims that China's intellectual property theft -- basically, copying U.S. technology without compensation -- has cost 2.1 million American jobs. That figure comes from a 2011 report by the U.S. International Trade Commission, which suggested different scenarios for analyzing the impact of intellectual property theft. Under one scenario, the report found that if China were to fully protect American intellectual property rights, it could boost U.S. employment by 2.1 million jobs.
In response to the new Romney ad (called "Stand Up to China"), Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt issued a statement defending the president's China policies and -- more prominently -- attacking Romney for having investments in Chinese companies. “The ultimate thing for Romney is that while he accuses the president of not stopping China from ‘cheating,’ we know that Romney has continued to invest in China.” LaBolt said.
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