U.S. Rep. Bill Owens and Watertown businessman Matt Doheny both think China needs to play fair with its currency, but they disagree on how to make that happen.
Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Don Hassig says the best way for the U.S. to boost its economy is to withdraw from the World Trade Organization and all of its free trade agreements.
The three candidates are running for New York's new 21st Congressional District.
(Enterprise file photos)
China and the trade deficit
On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. trade deficit was $44.2 billion, with American exports at a six-month low. Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, reacted to the news by calling for a tougher stance on China.
"If we're going to put people back to work, we need to make sure the ground is fertile for companies to create products in the United States and sell them to our trading partners around the world," he said in a press release. "That means enacting policies to ensure countries like China are playing by the rules. As it stands, China simply is not acting in good faith, which hinders growth opportunities for business and puts American jobs at risk."
Owens co-sponsored the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, which he said would treat "currency undervaluation as a prohibited export subsidy." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has also taken a hard stance against Chinese currency manipulation, promising to label China a "currency manipulator" if elected.
President Barack Obama has been tough on China, but he took heat from his opponent recently after the U.S. Treasury Department announced it would delay a decision on whether to label China a currency manipulator until after the Nov. 6 election.
Doheny, a Republican, said in an emailed statement that free trade benefits the North Country, resulting in cheaper products for consumers.
"I want China to play by the rules," Doheny said. "And so there are certainly mechanisms to continue to enforce that through the World Trade Organization, but also bilaterally. This is why we have a State Department. This is why we have a Department of Commerce, to be able to engage countries that we do not believe are acting in good faith one-on-one. The problem is: If you start raising barriers and tariffs, it ends up only hitting our consumers right here at home."
Doheny said the U.S. needs to be careful not to start a "trade war" with China. He said the U.S. could label China a currency manipulator but added that the Federal Reserve also manipulates currency through things like quantitative easing.
Trade with Canada
Owens has repeatedly called on U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to take steps to improve trade between New York and Canada. Owens said he has asked for "the inclusion of New York dairy and poultry products in Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations."
In August, Owens urged Kirk to lift trade barriers on New York wine producers. He said he's also traveled to Canada to "encourage companies there to expand their operations and create jobs in the United States."
Doheny said tariffs on dairy and poultry affect consumers and producers.
"If you live in the North Country, you are not that far from Montreal, from Ottawa and from Toronto," he said. "Huge markets. Now they're limiting to the U.S. side. But if you could go ahead and almost double your (business') size to go to Ontario, that would be a huge boon for our local producers. Free trade works both ways. If we put up tariffs, they'll put up tariffs. If reduce our tariffs, they'll reduce their tariffs."
Withdraw from trade agreements?
Hassig told the Enterprise that free trade agreements and the WTO "are very harmful to American businesses.
"By getting out of these bad trading relationships, we can create 30 million new jobs in America," he said. "American consumption of material goods should be fed by American production of these goods. American businesses producing products for American consumption will be far better than what we have now."
Hassig said his proposal would also be good for the environment.
"Transportation costs and pollution releases associated with transportation will be greatly reduced," he said. "Our businesses will be producing where environmental protection rules and worker protection rules exist."
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or email@example.com.