Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke releases trade plan that would end Trump's China tariffs

Key Points
  • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke releases a trade policy plan.
  • The Democratic presidential candidate proposes to end President Donald Trump's trade war with China and crack down on Beijing's anti-competitive practices without tariffs.
  • Democrats have called Trump's trade policy reckless as they push to challenge him for the White House.
Democratic U.S. Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke addresses the audience during the Presidential candidate forum at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Detroit, Michigan, July 24, 2019.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke released a trade plan Thursday that would end President Donald Trump's tariffs on China and make various reforms meant to boost American workers.

The former Texas congressman's proposal would toss out the White House's tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for Beijing scrapping duties on American products, according to his campaign. O'Rourke would also pursue changes to the World Trade Organization, measures to crack down on China's alleged unfair trade practices and trade deals with stronger labor and environmental protections.

"Trade is not the problem — Trump is. His trade war has been a disaster for American farmers and workers — but it's on us to offer a compelling alternative," O'Rourke said in a statement Thursday.

Criticism of Trump's trade policy from the jammed Democratic field has started to increase as concerns grow about the conflict with China dragging on economic growth. While some of the potential Democratic nominees have for years slammed U.S. trade deals as unfair to American workers — a stance that overlaps with Trump's views — they have also called the president's policies reckless and dangerous.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., among others, have released their own trade plans. They have broadly called for stronger labor and environmental standards in American trade deals. Many Democrats in Congress currently oppose Trump's updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement because they worry it will not go far enough to protect workers and the planet.

Getting China to change its trade policy will prove difficult for any U.S. president, as Trump has learned. His administration has struggled to strike a trade agreement with Beijing even after putting tariffs on about $550 billion in Chinese products.

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Here are some of the highlights of O'Rourke's trade plan:

  • He says he would end Trump's tariffs on China on his first day in office.
  • O'Rourke would push to make changes at the World Trade Organization to better deal with issues such as currency manipulation, labor standards, climate change and Beijing's alleged unfair trade practices.
  • He would also take several steps to push China to change its behavior, such as potentially capping Chinese investment in some U.S. business sectors or limiting access that Chinese companies have to the U.S. financial system.
  • His plan would also include provisions to make labor groups more involved in trade negotiations and ensure companies protect workers' rights to form unions.
  • It would get rid of a provision in the 2017 Republican tax law that critics say encourages companies to outsource, and invest more in programs to boost American manufacturers.

O'Rourke, who lost a close race for Sen. Ted Cruz's seat in Texas last year, has struggled to gain a toehold in a field of about 20 presidential primary candidates. He has criticized Trump's trade war with China more often than most of his rivals, particularly during campaign stops in Iowa. The first-in-the-nation caucus state relies heavily on agriculture.

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