DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says Washington must act to open more foreign markets to American products, and calls for the president to have new authority to negotiate such agreements.
Romney also wants what he calls a "Reagan Zone of Economic Freedom" that would include U.S. free-trade agreement partners who are committed to open markets and "playing by the rules." Such an alliance could operate through the World Trade Organization and in other arenas to push trade agreements as well as labor, environmental and other reforms.
"Governor Romney would seek to expand these efforts to include the European Union and other nations that agree to meet these standards, while challenging China and others advancing agreements that exclude America," the plan said.
The agenda items are part of Romney's proposal for free trade, which he was expected to discuss during campaign stops in northern Iowa on Thursday. A copy of the plan was provided to The Associated Press.
Free trade proposal
In it, the former Massachusetts governor says the president should have trade promotion authority, saying the U.S. cannot afford to be cut out of any more deals. The proposal says the U.S. is excluded from more than 300 trade agreements globally.
Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Congress stripped President Bush of his power to negotiate "fast track" trade agreements without intervention from Congress. Since 1975, only one other president, Bill Clinton, has been stripped of that authority, which was designed to speed the reduction of trade barriers and open new markets with other counties. Bush won't get it back, and the next president might not, either.
Rather than promoting new free trade accords, some lawmakers want the government to concentrate on rewriting old deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, going after countries such as China that manipulate their currencies, strengthening product safety and pushing anti-sweatshop legislation.
The U.S. 'needs his kind of experience'
Romney, who amassed a vast personal fortune as a venture capitalist, says a president who is going to grow the economy through new trade agreements needs his kind of experience. He also calls on Americans to "reject the Democrats' policies of retreat from the world."
Many Democrats and their labor and environmental allies are leery of free-trade deals, saying they lead to jobs being moved overseas, and to the exploitation of foreign workers and their environments.
"Denying America the ability to negotiate to open markets while our competitors gain advantages is no strategy," the proposal says.
Some of the proposals were laid out in terms of how they would affect Iowa, which traditionally launches the presidential nominating season. Video: Romney’s smooth talking
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Doha Round, global trade
Romney calls for a conclusion to the Doha Round of global trade talks, discussions that were launched in 2001 but became bogged down because of differences between rich countries such as the United States and developing nations such as Brazil and India over farm and manufacturing trade.
"The Doha Round and free-trade agreements can be huge opportunities for Iowa if we ensure no unilateral disarmament on agriculture and demand that they provide strong benefits for farmers and companies across Iowa," Romney's policy says.
The proposal says existing trade agreements must be enforced if states like Iowa are going to succeed in the global economy.
Romney also wants U.S. leaders and those in other countries to help end currency manipulation in China and other countries, and to protect intellectual property rights. He also touches on improving standards for the safety of food and products entering the United States.
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