National Public Radio presidential debate

And — now, here's the problem. I will say that it's actually a blunt tool. I'd prefer not doing this legislatively. The problem is we've had a president that has shown no leadership on it. So if — and when I am in the White House, I will meet directly with the Chinese leadership and indicate we have to restore balance. And, by the way, we have to mobilize our allies, such as the European Union, to have that conversation with us.

This is an imbalance that is not good for any economy over time. It's not sustainable, the trade imbalances that we have.

But just to go to a point that was made earlier, so often we see these issues as contradictory. Mike Gravel, I am interested, as I said, in making sure that the Chinese population is fed and clothed and advancing. I think that is important. It is not, I think, in the long-term interest of China to expand solely on the backs of low-wage worker — work that is undermining U.S. work. If we are saying to China, raise your labor standards, that will over time improve the lot of Chinese workers as well as U.S. workers. And that's what we should be looking at, is how can we improve the working conditions, the safety conditions, the consumer protections that are available for all people, and that's not what's happening right now.

MS. NORRIS: Senator Obama, thank you.

Senator Biden, very quickly.

SEN. BIDEN: Look, first of all, I don't buy this being, "Why are you being so tough on China?" Would we do any of these things with regard to France or Germany or England, our friends, our allies? The answer is we would.

MS. NORRIS: Do you think it's analogous situation?

SEN. BIDEN: No, I think it is — look, if France was acting like China's acting, we'd be tough with them. If England was doing what China's doing, we'd be tough with them. This is about being fair.

And by the way, to deal with the currency — back in '88 we had the same deal, and what happened, we had a thing called the Plaza Accords. We brought in all of the major currencies in the world to sit down and say we've got to rationalize the currency here. Us doing it by ourselves is the ultimate blunt instrument. We may be able to do that, but were I president, I'd be calling a similar conference, bringing in the rest of the world to rationalize our currencies here.

MS. NORRIS: Time is short. I just want to turn to something that Senator Clinton said. You said that China reacts if they are pressed. So would we believe that — should we believe that the relationship — the U.S. relationship with China under a Hillary Clinton administration would be less one of cooperation and engagement and one more akin to confrontation?

SEN. CLINTON: No. No, absolutely not. It would be a position where we would operate from strength with a coherent policy about what our interests were and what we hope to achieve.

I'll give you a quick example. I have a company in my state that has exported into China for many years. All of a sudden, out of the blue, they were told that they were going to start having tariffs slapped on their product that would have made it absolutely uncompetitive for them to compete. Their alternative was to go into business with some Chinese company, more than likely some kind of front group for the People's Army, and therefore lose their intellectual property. And so I helped them stand up to that, and they respected it and backed down.

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