China is America’s trade partner – not our trade enemy

The race for the White House is all about jobs and the economy.

Question is, in the seven weeks between now the Election Day, will either President Obama or Governor Romney connect free trade to job growth in a way that seizes the advantage with worried voters?

At this point, it’s hard to say whether either side really gets it.

Meeting in Charlotte, Democrats talked jobs but left trade out of the picture.

Republicans used the speech by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to put trade in the spotlight and suggest that China is leaving America in the dust in negotiating free trade agreements:

“In the last year, the United States has ratified three trade agreements, all negotiated in the Bush administration.  If you are concerned about China’s rise, consider this fact:  China has signed 12 free trade agreements and is negotiating 20 more.  Sadly, we are abandoning the playing field of free trade.  And it will come back to haunt us.”

Truth is, President Bush deserves credit for negotiating those three trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. And President Obama deserves credit for pushing those agreements through a Congress that tends to favor protectionism because it’s politically popular. Those three agreements alone will support some 70,000 American jobs and generate about $13 billion in annual revenue for U.S. businesses.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is now in the midst of negotiating possibly the most ambitious free trade deal ever. The Trans-Pacific partnership involves nine countries including Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and Vietnam.

Democrats and Republicans alike are touting the pending agreement as a challenge to China’s trade dominance in the Pacific region. And that’s fine.

What’s NOT fine, however, is rhetoric from the left or the right that tends to paint China as a trade enemy. China is not America’s trade enemy.  China is America’s third largest trade partner - $104 billion annually in vehicles and parts, agricultural products, computers and electronics, pharmaceuticals, machines and manufactured goods.

Instead of fomenting anti-China sentiments for political purposes, leaders in both parties should be helping educate Americans on the benefits of free trade and the dangers of U.S. protectionism that leads to bad foreign policy and mistrust among international partners and friends.

Ainsley Shea