Democratic candidates debate: Dealing with China and tariffs

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asks the candidates if they plan to repeal tariffs and how they would deal with China economically.
13:24 | 09/13/19

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Transcript for Democratic candidates debate: Dealing with China and tariffs
impact here at home. U.S. Relationship with China, trade and president trump's tariffs. We received more than 100 questions from viewers, wanting to know how all of you are going to handle these tariffs, and Mr. Yang, let me begin with you. Would you repeat the tariffs on your first day in office and if so, would you risk losing leverage in our trade relationship with China? I would not repeal the tariffs on day one, but I would let the Chinese know we need to hammer out a deal. Right now, the tariffs are pummelling producers in Iowa that have nothing to do with the imbalances we have with China. A CEO friend of mine was in China recently and he said that he saw pirated U.S. And intellectual property on worker workstations to the tune of thousands of dollars per head. And he said, one, how can my workers compete against that? And two, think about all the lost revenue to American so, the imbalances are real. But we have to let the Chinese know that we recognize that president trump has pursued an arbitrary and haphazard trade policy that's had victims on both sides, so, no to rebeautifuling the tariffs immediately, but yes to making sure we come to a deal that addresses the concerns of American companies and American producers. Mayor Pete, let me take that question -- let me take that question to you, because you've seen president trump's tweets, he says what's going to happen here is the Chinese are just going to wait him out to get a Democrat they can take advantage of. We've seen president trump call president XI an enemy and a friend. Well, the president clearly has no strategy. When I first got into this race, I remember president trump scotched and said he'd like to see me make a deal with XI jinping. I'd like to see him make a deal with XI jinping. Wasn't that supposed to happen in April? It's one more example of a commitment not made. When that happens on the international stage, people take note. Not just our competitors, orred a verve says, but our alleys take note of the inability of the the United States to keep its word or follow through on its plans. When that happens, there are serious consequences. We saw it at the g7. The leaders sitting to talk about one of the greatest challenges in the rld who, climate change, and there was literally an empty chair where American leadership could have the problem is, this is a moment when American leadership is leaded more than ever. Whether it's in Hong Kong, where those protesters for democracy need to know they have a friend in the United States, or anywhere around the world where increasingly we see dictators throwing their weight around. The world needs America, but it can't be just any America. Would you repeal the tariffs? I would have a strategy that would include them as leverage. It's not about the tariffs. The president has reduced the entire China challenge of a question of tariffs, when what we know is that the tariffs are coming down on us more than anybody else and there's a lack of a bigger strategy. Senator klobuchar, you've supported the tariffs on steel. What we've got right now, though, George, it's not a focused tariff on steel. What he's done here is assessed the tariffs on our allies, he's put us in the middle of the trade war and treating our farmers and workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos. If we're not careful, he's going to bankrupt this country. One forecast said it's already said it cost us 300,000 jobs, all right? There is soybeans that are mounting up in bins all over the midwest, in my state of Minnesota and in Iowa. So, what I think we need to do is to go back to the negotiate table, that's what I would do. I wouldn't have put all these tariffs in place. And I wouldn't have had a trade policy where on August 1st he announces he's going to have tariffs on $300 billion on goods, on August 13th, he cuts it in half, a week later, he says he's going to reduce taxes. The day after that, he's going to do it. The leaders of the world are watching this. And it undermines our strength as a nation. And yes, we want fair trade, but we must work with the rest of the world. And he has made a mockery of focussed trade policy, which I think means enforcement, like we've done in northern Minnesota, passing bills, getting president Obama to do more on that, so that our workers can benefit so we are importing, exports goods and making sure that it's a competitive policy where our goal is that we are making things, inventing things and exports to the world. He is defeating that goal. Secretary Castro, you actually, in one of the previous debates, identified China as the most serious national security threat. Senator klobuchar said she would go back to the negotiating table. But where do you get leverage? I agree with people that said this trade war is hurting American families. As senator klobuchar said, $600 to the average American family. Just a couple of days ago, 60% of Americans said that they believe that we're in for a recession next year. So, when I become president, I would immediately begin to negotiate with China to rachet down that trade war. We have leverage there. I also believe, though, that we need to return to a leader when it comes to things like human rights. We have millions of uighurs in China that right now are being imprisoned and mistreated. And in North Korea, this president is elevating a dictator. We need to stop that. We need to return to ensuring that America leads again on human rights. When it comes to this trade war, I would immediately begin racheting that trade war down. We have leverage in that discussion. Senator Warren, let me bring you in on this conversation. President Obama signed the transpacific partnership, to bring China into some kind of regulation. What do you think he got wrong? So, our trade policy in America has been broken for and it has been broken because it works for giant multinational corporations and not for much of anyone else. These are giant corporations that, shoot, if they can save a nickel by moving a job to a foreign country, they'll do it in a heartbeat. And yet, for decades now, who has been whispering in the ears of our trade negotiators? Who has shaped our trade policy? It's been the giant corporations. It's been their lobbyists and their executives. The way we change our trade policy in America is, first, the procedures. Who sits at the table? I want to negotiate trade with unions at the table. I want to negotiate it with small farmers at the table. I want to negotiate it with environmentalists at the table. I want to negotiate with human rights activists at the table. And you asked the question about leverage, if I could just respond to that one, the leverage, are you kidding? Everybody wants access to the American market. That means that we have the capacity to say right here in America, you want to come sell goods to American consumers? Then you got to raise your standards. You've got to raise your labor standards. You've got to raise your environmental standards. So our companies can compete on a level playing field. We can use trade not to undermine American workers and not to undermine American farms and not to undermine small businesses in this country. We can use trade to help build a stronger economy. Senator Harris, how would your trade policy differ from president Obama's? Well, first of all, I have no criticism of that more than just looking at where we are now, which is we've got a guy in the white house who has been erratic on trade policy, he conducts trade policy by tweet, frankly born out of his fragile ego. It's resulted in farmers in iow with soybeans rotting in bins, looking at bankruptcy. When we look at this issue, my trade policy, under a Harris administration, is always going to be about saying, we need to export American products, not and to do that, we have to have a meaningful trade policy. I'm not a protectionist Democrat. Look, we need to sell our stuff. And that means we need to sell it to people overseas. That means we need trade policies that allow that to happen. You asked earlier about China, it's a complicated relationship. We have to hold China they steal our products, including our intellectual property. They dump sub-standard products into our economy. They need to be accountable. We need to partner with China on climate and the crisis that presents. We need to partner with China on the issue of North Korea. I'm on, and the only person on this stage, the senate intelligence committee and the senate homeland security we need a partner on the issue of North Korea. But the bottom line is this, Donald Trump in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in "The wizard of oz," when you pull back the curtain, it's a really small dude? Okay. I'm not even going to take the bait, senator Harris. But I am going to take -- It wasn't about you. I'm going to take it to senator Sanders right now. There is a reason why, in the last 45 years, the average American today, despite an explosion of technology and worker productivity, is not making a penny more than he or she made 45 years ago. And one of the reasons is that, for decades, we have had disastrous trade policies. I have to say to my good friend Joe Biden, Joe and I strongly disagree on trade. I helped lead the opposition to nafta, which cost this country over 4 million good paying jobs. And what happened is, people who had those jobs ended up getting other jobs making 50% of what they made in manufacturing. So, trump, obviously, hasn't a clue, trump thinks that trade policy is a tweet at 3:00 in the morning. What we have got to do is develop a trade policy that represents workers, represents the farmers in the midwest and elsewhere who are losing billions right now because of trump's policy. A trade policy which understands that if a company shuts down in America and goes abroad and then thinks they're going to get online to get a lucrative federal contract, under Bernie Sanders, they got another guess coming. Vice president Biden, he invoked your name. Yeah, well, look, we're either going to make the policy or China's going to make the rules of the road. We make up 25% of the world economy. We need another 25% to join us. And I think senator Warren is correct, at the table has to be labor and at the table has to be environmentalists. The fact of the matter is, China, the problem isn't the trade deficit, the problem is they're stealing our intellectual property. They are dumping steel on us. It's a difference than agricultual products. We're in a position of, if we don't set the rules, we, in fact, are going to find ourselves with China setting the rules. And that's why you need to organize the world to take on China, to stop the corrupt practices that are under way. Senator booker, close out this round. Sure. There's one point we're really missing on the stage right now, which is the fact that Donald Trump's America first policy is actually an America isolated, an America alone policy. Exactly. From trade to battling China to the global crisis of climate change, the challenges in the Middle East, he is pulling us away from our allies, out of the Iran deal, out of the Paris climate aaccords, and he's deciding to take on China, while at the same time taking on tariff battles with all of our allies. You literally have him using a national security waver to put tariffs on Canada. I'm the only person on this stage that finds Trudeau's hair very menacing, but they are not a national security threat. We cannot go up against China this is a president that has a better relationship with dictators like duetarte and Putin than he does with Merkel and macron. We have to stand with our allies in common cause and common purpose. That's how we beat China. That's how we beat climate change on the planet Earth and that's how American values are the ones that lead on issues of trade and human rights. David?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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