Both Party Platforms Emphasize the Importance of Trade - But Differ Significantly in Specifics and Tone

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[author: Bonnie B. Byers]

The Democratic platform released last week emphasizes the need to promote international trade that is both free and fair. In particular, the platform touts Obama Administration efforts under the Trans-Pacific Partnership to create a regional free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region. The platform also highlights a desire to expand trade with Latin America, a region that accounts for three times the amount of trade as the U.S. has with China, and building on agreements that President Obama signed with Panama and Colombia. The platform also emphasizes the need to enforce U.S. trade rights, among other things, through the creation of an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.

By contrast, the Republicans took a more combative tone in their platform, criticizing China’s trade policies, in particular, and attacking the Obama Administration for what the platform terms “a virtual surrender” in the face of Chinese competition. While the Democratic platform mentioned China only twice, and in a relatively benign manner, the Republicans take many of China’s trade policies head on. The Republicans cite as particular problem areas China’s lack of intellectual property protection (which the platform refers to as “stealing”), currency manipulation, exclusive government procurement practices, government subsidies, and regulations that put U.S. exporters at a disadvantage. The Republican platform also insists on “full parity” in any negotiations with China. As a first step, a Romney Administration would ensure that U.S. trade laws are used to address China’s manipulation of its currency. This is a measure that the Obama Administration has thus far been unwilling to take.