National Public Radio presidential debate

I met a man named Doug Bishop a couple — few years ago, who talked about having to look his child in the eye and explain why his — her daddy, who had worked in that mill his entire life, that factory, had lost his job and hadn't done anything wrong, because his child did not understand.

American trade policy is catering to the interests of big corporate America. It has been for a decade and a half. And we desperately need a president of the United States who, instead of asking, "Is this going to help corporate profits," is just actually going to stand up for American workers and American jobs.

MS. NORRIS: Robert has a question, but just for clarity, just — I just heard you say that America has enormous leverage. To my first question when we began this discussion on China, you said that America did not have enough leverage —

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, no, I didn't. No, I said we have more leverage than they do. We do. I think everybody actually agrees with that.

But our leverage is economic, our leverage is diplomatic, and we have leverage within the WTO, which Senator Biden and others have spoken about.

But we have not held China accountable, and the result is the loss of American jobs, the struggling of American families, the struggles of the middle class. Those jobs help support the middle class and build the middle class in this country. And as we've already talked about, dangerous Chinese products coming into the United States.

MS. NORRIS: So diminished, but significant.

Robert, you have question.

MR. SIEGEL: Senator, there's an implication in what you just said. The — that the United States can become once again a major power in textile production, an industry we associate with low-wage emerging economies. Isn't it fair to think that no matter what our relationship with China, obviously poorer countries are going to be producing textiles in mills around the world, it's just not what our economy should be specializing in at this time?

MR. EDWARDS: What is fair to think is that we have had a trade policy that has cost America — my father, who worked in a mill for 37 years so that I could be — and my brother and sister could have a better life than he had, that mill that he worked in is gone. Jobs all across Iowa are gone. And the reason is because America has catered to the interests of corporate profits, not the interests of the American middle class, not the interests of American workers, and not the interests of these manufacturing jobs.

Are there other things we need to do? Of course there are. America, to be competitive over the long term, needs a trade policy that works, that looks out for the interests of the middle class, but it also needs — America needs to be the most creative, best-educated, most-innovative workforce on the planet. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. They can both be done at the same time.

MS. NORRIS: Thank you very much.

Senator Obama, I just want to return to the question of currency manipulation. You had said that if China is actually manipulating their currency, this country needs to "take them to the mat." What exactly did you mean by that?

SEN. OBAMA: We have legislation that says that if, in fact, they are manipulating their currency — and I think there's no dispute that they are — that we need to take strong action. It's in the Banking Committee. Chris is presiding over that.

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