HEMPSTEAD, New York, Oct 17: US President Barack Obama dismissed Mitt Romney´s tough talk on China Tuesday at their second debate, saying his Republican rival invests in firms that build surveillance equipment for the Asian giant.
"Governor, you´re the last person who´s going to get tough on China," Obama said after Romney repeated his campaign trail promise to crack down on Beijing when it violates international trade rules.
"When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks," Obama said.
Romney said earlier in the town hall-style debate that one of the elements of his trade policy would be "cracking down on China when they cheat" -- a pledge that has come up at virtually every campaign stop in recent months.
Obama´s aggressive response may have referred to a story his campaign has peddled recently, an article earlier this year by The New York Times that laid out how Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Romney, was profiting from investments in Chinese companies.
The Times detailed how a Bain-run fund in which a Romney blind trust has holdings bought the video surveillance division of a Chinese firm that says it is the largest supplier to a monitoring system that allows Beijing to watch over schools, hospitals, and theaters.
Romney, a multimillionaire, made a point of returning to the issue of China multiple times during the fiery 90-minute debate.
"China has been a currency manipulator for years and years," Romney said, adding that Obama has declined to label Beijing as such during his four years in office.
"On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator," Romney said.
But he also addressed his own foreign investments, which have been a target of repeated attacks from the Obama camp.
"Any investments I have made over the last eight years have been by blind trusts and they include investments outside of the United States, including Chinese companies," the Republican White House hopeful said.
He then challenged the president. "Have you looked at your pension?" he said, adding that Obama, too has investments in China.
"I don´t look at my pension," Obama shot back. "It´s not as big as yours. I don´t check it that often."