Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led Sanders in early Democratic presidential primary polling since entering the race a week ago, raised eyebrows Wednesday by downplaying the economic threat posed by China. At a campaign stop in Iowa, Biden said: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man.”
“It’s wrong to pretend that China isn’t one of our major economic competitors,” the Sanders campaign wrote in a tweet. “When we are in the White House we will win that competition by fixing our trade policies.”
President Donald Trump won traditional manufacturing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016 in part by pledging to crack down on what he called Chinese trade abuses. His administration has levied tariffs on Chinese goods and pushed for a new trade agreement with Beijing, which it could announce in the coming weeks.
The president has found kindred spirits on the Democratic side. Primary candidates such as Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have argued that free trade agreements have hurt American workers by encouraging companies to hire overseas.
On Monday, Sanders released a trade plan designed to put more pressure on Trump over trade policy. He called on all of his presidential rivals to pledge to renegotiate U.S. trade deals and label China a currency manipulator, among other proposals. Trump promised to label China a currency manipulator but has not yet done so.
On Monday, Sanders drew a distinction between himself and the former vice president on trade.
“I helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He voted for NAFTA,” he told CNN. “I helped lead the fight against (normal trade relations) with China. He voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He supported it.”
While Biden did not respond to Sanders’ specific criticism, he defended his policy history Tuesday.
“I’m proud of my record,” he said in Iowa.
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