Politics

Romney supports, opposes free trade with China

One day before the all-important Iowa caucuses, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues refusing to clarify his position on free trade with China.

In his 2010 book “No Apology: The case for American Greatness,” Romney argued against protectionism, an ideology that favors tariffs, quotas and other restrictions placed on international trade.

“Personally, I don’t like to see America lose any good jobs,” Romney wrote. “But when I see an American company challenged by a foreign competitor, I don’t look for protectionist policies as an answer to the company’s problems. Instead, I look to see how that company can become competitive once more, drive off its foreign foe, and propel its own products into foreign markets.”

But during the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney has taken the opposite position.

During an Oct. 24 radio interview with the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, for instance, Romney promised that on “day one” of his presidency he would impose new tariffs on trade with China, and classify the nation as a “currency manipulator.”

“At some point, you’ve got to stand up for your rights and say ‘these people are cheating,” Romney told Hannity. “They’re killing certain industries. This just can’t go on forever. It’s simply unacceptable.”

In an Oct. 13 Washington Post op-ed, Romney argued that China is a cheating country, and that free trade only works if every nation plays by the same rules. Romney’s campaign doubled down on that argument Monday. (RELATED: Full coverage of Mitt Romney)

“China has systematically cheated on its obligations as a participant in the international economy, taking advantage of the openness of the American market while keeping its own market closed,” a Romney spokesperson told The Daily Caller.

“Governor Romney believes that the United States must confront China over its unfair trade practices and present it with serious consequences if it continues to distort the free market for its own benefit. He recognizes that firm action against cheaters is crucial to strengthening and expanding free trade around the world.”

In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Romney “shed” all his investments in China after he took up his new talking points. Romney and his wife previously had about $1.5 million invested in blind trusts in China.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a fellow GOP presidential candidate who was the U.S. ambassador to China during two years of President Barack Obama’s administration, has criticized Romney for his foreign policy inconsistencies, specifically with respect to China.

“What we see in Romney is someone who has been involved there through business practices but yet doesn’t have a formulated policy that takes into account the complexities,” Huntsman foreign policy director Randy Schriver told Foreign Policy Magazine in August. “Romney is essentially weak on foreign policy, and China is a complex issue to handle.”

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse told TheDC that Romney’s inconsistency on how to deal with China on trade is another of what critics describe as a long list of flip-flops.

“Romney couldn’t find a consistent position on an issue with a flash light and two hands, including on how to deal with China on trade,” Woodhouse said in an email. “He was against holding China accountable for unfair trade practices when he had his own money invested there and was for it once he sold his investments. Mitt Romney’s approach to China trade is like his approach to politics and high finance — whatever benefits him most at the time.”

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