Third presidential debate transcript: Mitt Romney on China

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on Oct. 22, 2012

Transcript of Mitt Romney’s remarks on China:

Well, first of all, it’s not government that makes business successful. It’s not government investments that makes businesses grow and hire people.

Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces, the greatest national security threat is a nuclear Iran.

Let’s talk about China. China has an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They don’t want to see protectionism. They don’t want to see the world break out into — into various forms of chaos, because they have to — they have to manufacture goods and put people to work and they have about 20,000 — 20 million, rather, people coming out of the farms every year coming into the cities, needing jobs.

So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open. 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.

Now, they look at us and say, Is it a good idea to be with America? How strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy? They look at the fact that we owe ’em a trillion dollars and owe other people $16 trillion in total, including that.

They look at our — our decision to — to cut back on our military capabilities. A trillion dollars. The secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It’s not my term, it’s the president’s own secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It’s not my term, it’s the president’s own Secretary of Defense, called them devastating.

They look at America’s commitments around the world and they see what’s happening, and they say, well, OK. Is America going to be strong? And the answer is, yes, if I’m president, America will be very strong.

We’ll also make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for us. I’ve watched year in and year out as companies have shut down and people have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same rules, in part by holding down artificially the value of their currency. It holds down the prices of their goods. It means our goods aren’t as competitive and we lose jobs. That’s got to end.

They’re making some progress; they need to make more. That’s why on day one, i will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.

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.

Moderator Bob Schieffer: Well, Governor, let me just ask you. If you declare them a currency manipulator on day one, some people are — say you’re just going to start a trade war with China on day one. Is that — isn’t there a risk that that could happen?

Gov. Mitt Romney: Well, they sell us about this much stuff every year, and we sell them about this much stuff every year. So it’s pretty clear who doesn’t want a trade war. And there’s one going on right now, which we don’t know about it. It’s a silent one. And they’re winning.

We have enormous trade imbalance with China, and it’s worse this year than last year, and it’s worse last year than the year before. And so we have to understand that we can’t just surrender and lose jobs year in and year out. We have to say to our friend in China, look, you guys are playing aggressively. We understand it. But this can’t keep on going. You can’t keep on holding down the value of your currency, stealing our intellectual property, counterfeiting our products, selling them around the world, even to the United States.

I was with one company that makes valves and — and process industries and they said, look, we were — we were having some valves coming in that — that were broken and we had to repair them under warranty and we looked them and — and they had our serial number on them. And then we noticed that there was more than one with that same serial number. They were counterfeit products being made overseas with the same serial number as a U.S. company, the same packaging, these were being sold into our market and around the world as if they were made by the U.S. competitor. This can’t go on.

I want a great relationship with China. China can be our partner, but — but that doesn’t mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs on an unfair basis.

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