On his Mon Valley stop Thursday, Sen. Arlen Specter will accuse China of “international banditry’’ in its trade policies, blaming the export powerhouse for the erosion of manufacturing employment in the United States.
The speech comes during campaign in which his Democratic primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, has faulted the incumbent’s record on economic issues, blasting him or his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Specter has voted for a variety of other free trade pacts, often opposed by U.S. labor groups, but he has been a reliable ally of the steel industry and the USW in his support of a succession of International Trade Organization cases complaining about steel imports.
The prepared text of the strongly worded speech targets China’s management of its currency, demanding that Beijing move to a floating exchange rate. Numerous economists have observed that by undervaluing its currency, the Yuan, China has seized an unfair advantage in the price of its goods over its trading partners. China has repeatedly denied the widespread charges that it manipulates its currency to promote its exports. Mr. Specter’s speech calls for a “workers bill or rights’’ on trade.
“America’s continuing loss of manufacturing jobs threatens the welfare and preeminence of this nation. Nowhere is this threat greater than to the steel industry,’’ Mr. Specter’s speech declares.
“Free trade MUST mean compliance with international trade law, or America has the right to say no and confront a system that is destroying the jobs and livelihood of thousands of workers.
“The chief threat is from China whose predatory trading practices and currency manipulation are flooding the market with low-priced imports in violation of international trade laws.”
At another point the speech upbraids Chinese officials for their resistance to U.S. demands for reforms to the nation’s trade policies.
“China’s Commerce Minister said recently that if there was a trade war, the United States would lose,’’ Mr. Specter planned to say. “The fact is there is a trade war. But only China is in it, and China is winning.”
To combat “China’s predatory trading practices,’’ Mr. Specter calls for a variety of steps, most of which overlap a proposal he offered earlier this month with 14 other senators, including his colleague Sen. Bob Casey.