Vice presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris drew a clear line Wednesday night on the U.S.-China trade war with Pence conveying a position of strength and Harris decrying the damage done to American farmers and manufacturers.
“Joe Biden wants to repeal all of the tariffs that President Trump put into effect to fight for American jobs and American workers,” Pence, who was elected to the vice presidency in 2016, said during the debate held in Salt Lake City, Utah, less than a month before Election Day.
Harris, a California senator, did not dispute Pence’s accusation about repealing the tariffs, but instead countered that Trump’s tariffs — and by extension the Chinese retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm commodities — resulted in farm bankruptcies and thousands of lost manufacturing jobs.
Harris proclaimed that Trump “lost” the trade war and her arguments stayed close to previous statements made by her running mate, former Vice President Joe Biden
“You think being tough with China is a trade deal that opens the door to big banks to make money in China?” Biden asked rhetorically in a recent speech. “That’s basically all we got out of it. A lot of … farmers and manufacturers went under, but guess what — starting a trade war leads to farm bankruptcies and throws American manufacturing into a recession.”
But Pence repeatedly accused Biden of “economic surrender” to China and portrayed him as weak on the issue.
“Lost the trade war with China?” Pence asked rhetorically. “Joe Biden never fought it. Joe Biden’s been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades.”
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The U.S. and China signed a “phase one” deal in January that included Chinese pledges to buy $80 billion worth of U.S. farm goods over two years, but neither country lifted its tariffs. China began in early March to exempt Chinese importers from some tariffs on a case-by-case basis.
Harris also returned to a common theme in the Democrats’ campaign of working with global allies to challenge countries like China and Iran.
“We’re going after China in the wrong way,” Biden said recently. “China is stealing intellectual property. China is conditioning being able to do business in China based on whether or not you have 51% Chinese ownership. That’s got to end.”
Pence wrapped up the debate over the trade war with some optimism about the future of the U.S.-China relationship: “We want to improve the relationship, but we’re going to level the playing field.”
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