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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney wasted no time attacking U.S. rivals and calling for more unity with foreign allies during his first speech on the Senate floor since he was sworn in earlier this year.
During his 20-minute speech at the U.S. Capitol, Romney dismissed Russia as a threat, saying Russia is on a downward path with a shrinking population and lagging economy. Instead, he focused the majority of his message toward China. He stopped short of calling China geopolitical foe but said recent actions have “brought it right up to the line of being so.”
Romney pointed out to his colleagues that because China’s population is currently four times the size of the U.S., it’s likely inevitable that its economy “should eventually dwarf ours,” and that could also mean its military will become the largest in the world, too. That is barring the country “might someday experience a discontinuity or another uprising that will change its course.”
“It is possible that freedom itself would be in jeopardy,” Romney warned.
His speech comes in the midst of an ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
The two countries have been entangled in a tariff battle for the past year, which was started by a trade discrepancy. In May, President Donald Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to that, the U.S. has accused China of stealing trade secrets, and Romney condemned Chinese business tactics that he said have “corrupted” the free market.
Romney’s advice for his colleagues? Band together and “join our economic and military might with that of other free nations.” He also said the U.S. will benefit from a strong NATO and a strong Europe.
“Our alliances are invaluable to us and to the cause of freedom. We should strengthen our alliances, not dismiss or begrudge them,” he said. “We should enhance our trade with allies, not disrupt it, and coordinate all the more closely our security and defense with them. … We need to hold our friends closer, not neglect them or drive them away. These alliances are a key advantage we have over China: America has many friends, China has very few.”
Romney continued by saying Chinese practices are “killing and debilitating businesses throughout the world.” To counteract that, Romney said the U.S. has options. National officials can decide to ban all or particular Chinese goods, employ subsidies to balance out the divide, or band together with foreign allies “to establish strict rules of conduct.”
Overall, he hoped for more peaceful trade discussions in the future.
“As we confront China’s aggression, we must also endeavor to convince it to turn back from the road of economic, military and geopolitical conflict upon which it has embarked,” Romney said. “Joining the other nations of the world in genuinely fair and free trade, and in respect for the sovereignty of its trading partners and neighbors, is very much in China’s, America’s, and the world’s interest.”