During Tuesday night’s debate in New Hampshire, moderator Karen Tumulty challenged Mitt Romney on his recent tough talk on China. Romney says China is a “currency manipulator” and argues that, by setting unfair prices and allowing the theft of American intellectual property, the Chinese government is cheating world markets and must be held accountable

Tumulty pointed out that candidates from George W. Bush to Barack Obama have campaigned as tough talkers to China but upon election take a “much more cautious approach.” Why, she asked, should voters expect anything different from a President Romney?

“I'm afraid that people who've looked at this in the past have been played like a fiddle by the Chinese,” Romney said. “And the Chinese are smiling all the way to the bank, taking our currency and taking our jobs and taking a lot of our future. And I'm not willing to let that happen.” Romney went on to reiterate that he would sign an executive order on his first day in office “identifying China as a currency manipulator” and that he would take that case to the World Trade Organization.

On her radio show Wednesday morning, Laura Ingraham asked Romney whether the U.S. is already in a trade war with China.

“I don’t know that I’d use the term ‘trade war,’ but it’s a trade battle of some kind,” Romney said. “It’s a trade surrender, let me call it that....It’s just crazy for us to be fearful that somehow if we crack down on cheaters that that’s going to be a problem.”

Romney noted that many Republicans "adamantly" favor "free trade" and are concerned about interfering in the global market. “I am an enormous advocate for free trade," he qualified,"but if someone cheats on the agreements and they block the ability of our goods to be sold in their country and they empty out our businesses by virtue of cheating, that you can’t allow to go on. That is not free trade.”

Congress has recently taken up the issue of China’s currency manipulation in the form of new tariffs designed to pressure Beijing into appreciating the yuan more rapidly. The Senate passed its currency bill Tuesday, but the House is holding off on a vote, Republican leaders say, until the White House indicates its position on the matter. House speaker John Boehner told reporters this morning that this legislation could pose a "very severe risk" to a trade war. Ingraham asked Romney if he supported the China currency bill.

“Well, I’d take a very close look at the bill,” said Romney, who admitted he hadn’t read the bill yet. “If there are measures in it that don’t work, take those out.

“What I do support is saying, look, we are going to label China a currency manipulator, and we are going to therefore be able to apply tariffs on their goods that are being brought into this country on an unfair basis,” Romney continued. “And if the bill allows that effectively and doesn’t cause other problems, why it’s a bill I’d support.”

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