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Paul Ryan criticizes China policy that he voted against changing

WASHINGTON – Paul Ryan on Thursday began to criticize China as a currency manipulator, speaking out against the country’s trade policies with the same sharp rhetoric that his new running mate, Mitt Romney, has used for months.

“Free trade is a powerful tool for peace and prosperity, but our trading partners need to play by the rules,” Ryan said at a campaign rally in Ohio. “This challenge focuses on China. They steal our intellectual property rights, they block access to their markets, they manipulate their currency.”

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“President Obama said he would stop these practices,” he added. “He said he’d go to the mat with China. Instead, they are treating him like a doormat. We’re not going to let that happen. Mitt Romney and I are going to crack down on China cheating and we’re going to make sure that trade works for Americans.”

But there’s one glaring problem: Ryan voted against legislation in 2010 that would have helped do just that.

In 2010, when the House voted on the Currency Reform Fair Trade Act, Ryan was among the 79 congressmen who opposed the measure. The bill passed – 348 to 79, with 99 Republicans voting in favor – but was not taken up by the Senate so it never became law.

The legislation would have given the president expanded authority to impose tariffs on the imports from countries that have “fundamentally undervalued” currencies.

The different views – one that Ryan took when casting a congressional vote, the other he is now espousing on the campaign trail – illustrates some of the challenges of adopting the policies of a presidential campaign that was in place long before Ryan got there.

A Ryan campaign spokesman, Brendan Buck did not specifically address the discrepancy but said Ryan’s views are in line with Romney’s. Ryan’s campaign also notes that they believe that Obama already has the tools needed to crack down on China, and doesn’t need any legislation from Congress.

“Like Governor Romney, Congressman Ryan believes America must take aggressive action to confront nations like China that cheat on trade,” Buck said in a statement. “He believes this can be done most effectively when the president has the freedom to take appropriate action, and that we need a president like Governor Romney who is committed to doing just that instead of one like President Obama who has shown he won’t.”

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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