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The forum was sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a non-partisan, non-profit labor-management coalition of the United Steelworkers and U.S. manufacturers.
“China must stop manipulating its currency because it’s not fair to American manufacturers, it’s not fair to you, and we are going to change it when I am president,” said Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in his remarks to forum attendees, where he also criticized trade agreements like NAFTA. He pledged to “fight for manufacturing, modernize the steel industry, strengthen our manufacturing base and have a manufacturing policy to open as many markets as we can for American workers.”
“I’m calling for changing our laws to send China a message,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who outlined her trade agenda to the audience and highlighted national security concerns related to unfair trade. “If you subsidize your exports and hurt our manufacturers, you’ll pay a price.” She argued that “you cannot be a strong nation without a strong manufacturing sector.”
The candidates appeared separately. Each spoke for 20 minutes on trade and manufacturing issues before fielding several questions from the diverse audience of over 1,600 union workers, manufacturers and local elected officials. AAM principals and partners also addressed the crowd, including United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, United States Steel Corporation Senior Vice President Terrence Straub, Allegheny Technologies Chief Executive Patrick Hassey and AK Steel Chief Executive Jim Wainscott.
“Today, voters demanded that their presidential candidates get tough on China,” said AAM Executive Director Scott Paul. “And while the candidates at today’s forum made strong commitments on trade, we must ensure that their promises become policies that enforce our laws against unfair trade and defend our workers and domestic industries.”