Obama, Clinton Vow to “Get Tough with China” and Enforce Trade Laws at Manufacturing Forum
Candidates address growing concerns about swelling U.S.-China trade deficit that has cost Pennsylvania workers 78,000 jobs since 2001, 1.8 million jobs nationwide
PITTSBURGH, April 14, 2008 — Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vowed to hold China and other offending countries accountable for unfair trade practices that disadvantage U.S. workers and manufacturers at a candidate forum this morning in Pittsburgh. Sen. John McCain was invited but unable to attend. The forum was sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a non-partisan, non-profit labor-management coalition of the United Steelworkers and the nation’s leading manufacturers forged to strengthen manufacturing in America.
“Today, voters demanded that their presidential candidates get tough on China,” said AAM Executive Director Scott Paul. “And while the candidates at today’s forum made strong commitments on trade, we must ensure that their promises become policies that enforce our laws against unfair trade and defend our workers and domestic industries.”
The candidates appeared separately. Each spoke for 20 minutes on trade and manufacturing issues before fielding several questions from the diverse audience of more than 1,600 union workers, manufacturers and local elected officials. AAM principals and partners also addressed the crowd, including United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, United States Steel Corp. Senior Vice President Terrence Straub, Allegheny Technologies Chief Executive Patrick Hassey and AK Steel Chief Executive Jim Wainscott.
“China must stop manipulating its currency because it’s not fair to American manufacturers, it’s not fair to you, and we are going to change it when I am president,” said Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in his remarks to forum attendees, where he also criticized trade agreements like NAFTA. He pledged to “fight for manufacturing, modernize the steel industry, strengthen our manufacturing base, and have a manufacturing policy to open as many markets as we can for American workers.”
“I’m calling for changing our laws to send China a message,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who outlined her trade agenda to the audience and highlighted national security concerns related to unfair trade. “If you subsidize your exports and hurt our manufacturers, you’ll pay a price.” She argued that “you cannot be a strong nation without a strong manufacturing sector.”
The candidate forum is part of a larger effort by AAM to highlight the impact that China’s unfair trade practices have had on American workers and manufacturers. AAM has called for stronger enforcement of U.S. trade law and last week launched a statewide advertisement and grassroots campaign entitled, “China Cheats. Pennsylvania Loses.” A PDF of the ad is posted at: /uploads/2008/04/aam_pennsylvania_032708a.pdf
AAM Executive Director Scott Paul applauded the candidates for their willingness to engage on the issues before a largely Pennsylvania audience one week before that state’s Democratic primary election. “Senators Obama and Clinton faced an audience who believe that jobs and manufacturing issues are at the heart of this election and they were gratefully received.”