Free trade agreements were mostly overlooked during Monday night’s foreign policy debate.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney briefly mentioned the issue of trade as he ran through his five-point economic plan.
“[W]e’re going to increase our trade,” he said. “Trade grows about 12 percent year. It doubles about every — every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America.”
Romney went on to cite the benefits of trade with Latin America.
“As a matter of fact, Latin America’s economy is almost as big as the economy of China,” Romney said. “Latin America is a huge opportunity for us — time zone, language opportunities.”
Later, when host Bob Schieffer asked about China, Romney said that the U.S. could be potential partners with the nation, provided they play by the rules.
“So they [China] want the economy to work and the world to be free and open,” Romney said. “And so we can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form. We can work with them, we can collaborate with them, if they’re willing to be responsible.”
Romney criticized China for keeping their prices artificially low, thus hurting U.S. exports.
“They have to understand we want to trade with them. We want a world that’s stable. We like free enterprise, but you got to play by the rules,” he said.
President Barack Obama provided a glimpse into what a trade policy might look like under another four years of his presidency.
“We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through; that commerce continues,” Obama said. “And we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards.”
While Obama has been in office, he has signed and approved three trade agreements — with South Korea, Colombia and Panama (the Panamanian treaty still not yet implemented) — that were largely negotiated during the Bush administration.
Free trade agreements are tend to boost exports, grow the economy and create jobs. The free trade agreement with South Korea alone was expected to create as many as 280,000 American jobs.
The phrase “free trade” was not used by either candidate during Monday night’s debate, according to transcripts.
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