Dem candidates rip Trump on China ahead of crucial trade summit

Dem candidates rip Trump on China ahead of crucial trade summit
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Democratic presidential candidates criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s trade war with China during Thursday’s primary debate in Miami, arguing that his use of tariffs is the wrong weapon in the president’s rightful battle with China.

Trump’s Democratic challengers agreed with his concerns about anti-competitive trade policy from China and the authoritarian regime’s efforts to expand its global influence. 

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But they criticized Trump for using tariffs on billions of Chinese goods to push Beijing into negotiations, creating immense economic costs for both nations.

“The China challenge really is serious. This is not something to dismiss or wave away,” said South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Buttigieg unveils plan to strengthen mental health care, fight addiction MORE. “But their fundamental economic model isn't going to change because of some tariffs.”

Trump has imposed 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods and has threatened to subject another $300 billion to import taxes if Beijing does not agree to significant economic reforms and narrow its trade surplus with the U.S.

China has responded with tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. crops and livestock, targeting the vulnerable U.S. agriculture sector at a time of deep economic pain.

Democrats argued that Trump’s tariffs addressed real concerns but created unnecessary economic harm for U.S. farmers, manufacturers and consumers. 

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries MORE (D-Colo.) said Trump should instead unite global allies to curb China’s alleged practice of intellectual property theft, steel dumping and currency manipulation.

“He has been right to push back on China. But he's done it and completely the wrong way,” Bennet said of Trump. “We should mobilize the entire rest of the world who all have a shared interest in pushing back on China's mercantilist trade policies.”

Andrew YangAndrew YangGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Democratic governors fizzle in presidential race MORE, a tech entrepreneur, added “They do pirate our intellectual property is a massive problem. But the tariffs and the trade war are just punishing businesses and producers and workers on both sides.”

Buttigieg said that the only way to defeat China as they use “technology for the perfection of dictatorship” is to focus on sprawling domestic investments, “not the export balance on dishwashers.”

“The biggest thing we've got to do is invest in our own domestic competitiveness. If we disinvest in our own infrastructure, education, we are never going to be able to compete,” Buttigieg said.

The attacks on Trump’s trade policy come a day before the president is set to meet with his Chinese counterpart in a bid to reboot failed negotiations after they fell apart in May.

Trump is scheduled to meet Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The leaders of the two largest economies are expected to announce a temporary pause to further tariffs as the U.S. and China seek to end the yearlong trade war.