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McCormick: Fair trade, not free trade

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(The Center Square) — Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Dave McCormick visited Lackawanna County on Tuesday, arguing that American economic growth needs to be based on “fair trade” in global markets instead of “free trade” that’s fallen short.

“We have to start with a brief discussion of how we got here,” McCormick said. “We got here because American political and business leaders made a fundamental miscalculation some 20-plus years ago — they believed that bringing China into the global trading system … that China over time would open up its markets and adapt free-trading principles.”

Those rosy hopes for the future never came to pass.

“China has maintained unfair trade practices, China has been the largest thief of intellectual property … China has not played by the rules,” he said. “They’ve tried to weaponize our dependence on China.”

His remarks, made at Ronco Machine in Clarks Summit, were part of a roundtable discussion with local manufacturers and officials focused on unfair trade practices.

McCormick has emphasized his opposition to China in his Senate campaign, laying out a six-point plan in December to limit American dependence on the Asian nation and castigating current Sen. Bob Casey as weak.

Critics of McCormick have likewise called attention to his leadership of the hedge fund Bridgewater, when the company’s investments in China skyrocketed from $2 million in one quarter of 2017 to $1.8 billion in one quarter of 2022.

Setting up Pennsylvania companies to be competitive with China and other countries, McCormick called for a rethinking that recognized Americans face a global market where foreign countries are heavily subsidizing competitors.

“It’s important to have a real conversation about the value of fair trade — not free trade, but fair trade,” McCormick said. “The problem with what happened is the rules weren’t fair.”

McCormick wants to remove China from the World Trade Organization and revoke its permanent normal trade relations status, admitting that such a move “won’t be an easy thing to do” and would be economically disruptive.

“But the only way to get that economic relationship in a place where it’s fundamentally fair to U.S. manufacturers, fundamentally fair to U.S. labor, is to make sure it’s the same playing field,” McCormick said.

Though he acknowledged that trade needs to be preserved — some manufacturers compete with Chinese companies, while others rely on access to Chinese markets to sell their products — he also warned that it can be disruptive to communities.

“Other countries subsidize. Other countries impose tariffs,” McCormick said. “America, and leaders in both parties — but particularly the Republican Party — have been free-trade advocates to the point of almost ideology in saying ‘even if it’s not a fair deal, it’s still in America’s interest.’ I don’t believe that’s true. It’s been against America’s interest to allow trading that’s not based on fair rules.”

Beyond Chinese competition, the nominee argued that the three main barriers toward Pennsylvania’s economic growth has been inflation, a lack of skilled labor, and regulations.

“The stories I’ve heard from steel mills to dairy farms on how oppressive the regulations are — are beyond control,” McCormick said.

Natural gas also grabbed his attention.

“The regulations on pipelines and pipeline permitting is so over-the-top that our ability to unlock the unbelievable bounty of natural gas in Pennsylvania — which, by the way, is great for geopolitics and our security, great for our economy, but it’s great for the environment too — the irony is we cannot unlock this because of regulation,” McCormick said.

He also cast Sen. Casey as unfit to take on the economic challenges at hand.

“We have a guy in Bob Casey who’s never been in business, never made payroll; he’s never had to worry about any of these things,” McCormick said. “All he sees is the role of government — the role of government in forgiving student loans, the role of government in new programs to dole out money to people, the role of government in terms of regulating — he doesn’t understand that the goose that laid the golden egg are you guys that create businesses and jobs and vibrant economies.”

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