Romney adviser explains willingness to break with GOP on China

Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally
Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Mitt Romney's willingness to confront China over issues like currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and discouraging foreign competition is part of the presumptive GOP nominee's "innovative approach" to fixing the economy that differs from both Democrats and Republicans, his top policy adviser says.

In an interview airing Friday evening on Bloomberg TV's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," Romney policy director Lanhee Chen said his boss is interested in trying more than "just traditional Republican policies" to boost the country's economy.

"I think we talk about the importance of pro-growth tax policy and pro-growth regulatory policy," Chen said in the interview. "If you look at trade policy, as an example, here's a place where Governor Romney is really calling for a different approach."

Chen said a Romney administration would take "robust steps to make sure that China is a player on the international stage that plays by the rules."

Romney's position and previous statements toward China's trade policy have troubled some Republicans, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Chen said Romney had been in touch with Kissinger, but that "the bottom line is Governor Romney is going to do what it takes to get our economy going, including confronting China."

Asked what a Romney administration would do to help homeowners with underwater mortgages, Chen said it would not support a "short-term approach." He argued that the programs put in place by President Obama, like the Home Affordable Modification Program, have not helped large numbers of home owners as expected. Instead of such government programs, Chen argued the answer was to grow the economy.

"Ultimately that's what's going to get the housing market going again," he said in the interview, "and going to get home values rising again and going to help people who, frankly, currently underwater in their mortgages."

In talking about financial regulations, Chen reasserted Romney's desire to get rid of the Dodd-Frank law, and disputed the assertion that repealing the law would lead to "a dog-eat-dog kind of situation where there's absolutely no regulation."

"Governor Romney has made clear that we do need some regulation of derivatives trading, that we do need to have some kind of consumer protections in place, that we do need to look seriously at things we can do to ensure that the financial services industry is regulated in a reasonable way," Chen said. "But Dodd-Frank is really not the answer. And so I think we have to resist the temptation to caricature what a post-Dodd-Frank world looks like."

He also said Romney would seek to replace the Volcker rule, one part of Dodd-Frank that restricts the ability of banks to make certain kinds of speculative investments that do not benefit their customers.