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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Debate Two: China & Benghazi Provoke Heated Exchanges

by Newsteam Staff
October 17, 2012

GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during the second U.S. presidential debate October 16, 2012. (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters) GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during the second U.S. presidential debate October 16, 2012. (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters)

Tuesday’s debate between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney focused heavily on domestic topics, but the subjects of Chinese trade policies and the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi provoked two of the most heated exchanges of the second debate (NYT).

On China and Jobs

Obama:

OK. We need to create jobs here. And both Governor Romney and I agree, actually, that we should lower our corporate tax rate. It’s too high.

But there’s a difference in terms of how we would do it. I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China, that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed, so they have tax advantages offshore. All those changes in our tax code would make a difference.

Now Governor Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas when it comes to corporate tax reform would be to say, if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don’t have to pay U.S. taxes. But of course if you’re a small business or a mom- and-pop business or a big business starting up here, you’ve got to pay even the reduced rate that Governor Romney’s talking about. And it’s estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs. Problem is, they’ll be in China or India or Germany. That’s not the way we’re going to create jobs here.

Romney:

So we’re going to make sure the people we trade with around the world play by the rules.

But let me — let me not just stop there. Don’t forget: What’s key to bringing back jobs here is not just finding someone else to punish — and — and I’m going to be strict with people who we trade with to make sure they — they follow the law and play by the rules — but it’s also to make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses of all kinds. That’s why I want to bring down the tax rates on small employers, big employers, so they want to be here. Canada’s tax rate on companies is now 15 percent. Ours is 35 percent. So if you’re starting a business, where would you rather start it? We have to be competitive if we’re going to create more jobs here.

This CFR Issue Tracker details both candidates’ stances on U.S.-China policy.

On Libya

Obama:

The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror. And I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.

Romney:

And this calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and Israel, where the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel. We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria — Syria’s not just the tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic — strategically significant player for America. The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

This CFR Issue Tracker looks at both candidates’ stances on democracy promotion in the Arab world.

On Immigration

Obama:

What I’ve also said is, if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families, and that’s what we’ve done.

And what I’ve also said is, for young people who come here, brought here oftentimes by their parents, have gone to school here, pledged allegiances to the flag, think of this as their country, understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers, then we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship, and that’s what I’ve done administratively.

Romney:

I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined, I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to — shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people — green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need, people around the world with accredited degrees in — in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the US of A. We should make sure that our legal system works.

Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally.

This CFR Issue Tracker looks at both candidates’ stances on immigration

Read the full transcript here.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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