From Nation of Change – Politics
Foreign Policy Themed GOP Debate Full of Falsehoods
by Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson and Robert Farley
IWatch News/News Analysis
Monday 14 November 2011
We found several exaggerations and misstatements in the latest Republican presidential candidates’ debate.
Romney issued a hollow threat to take China’s currency manipulation to a world body that doesn’t actually deal with overvalued money, and he claimed federal spending consumes more of the nation’s economic output than it really does.
Gingrich overstated U.S. aid to Egypt by a factor of two, and he claimed Obama repudiated former president Mubarak “overnight,” when in fact the president took seven days before he publicly urged Mubarak to begin an “orderly transition” of power.
And Bachmann claimed that “we have no jail” for terrorists captured on “the battlefield,” overlooking the 1,700 men being held without trial at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
The debate took place Nov. 12 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., among eight candidates: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. It was sponsored by CBS News, the National Journal and the South Carolina Republican Party. The first hour of the 90-minute event was carried live on CBS, which said it planned to broadcast the final 30 minutes the following day on its Sunday show “Face the Nation.” Questions were focused on foreign policy.
Romney’s Hollow Threat on WTO and China
Romney threatened to haul China before the World Trade Organization to address currency manipulation. But as Huntsman suggested, the WTO isn’t a good forum for that.
Romney: “[T]hey’re a currency manipulator. And on that basis, we also go before the WT — WTO — and bring an action against them as a currency manipulator. … We can’t just sit back and let China run all over us.”
Huntsman: “… First of all, I don’t think, Mitt, you can take China to the WTO on currency-related issues.”
Huntsman — a former U.S. ambassador to China — is correct. WTO rules don’t cover currency manipulation, according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service:
CRS, Jan. 28, 2011: The WTO has rules against subsidies, but these are very narrow and specific and do not seem to encompass currency manipulation.
To be sure, the CRS report said it is “debatable” whether WTO rules against unfair trade subsidies can be interpreted to cover a deliberately undervalued currency. But it added: “[T]o date [the WTO] has done nothing to suggest that trade issues linked to currency manipulation are within its zone of responsibility.” The CRS said that a president might seek to amend WTO rules so that they clearly cover currency manipulation, but that is “not easy.”
Overall, we judge that there’s less force behind Romney’s WTO threat than he would have viewers believe.
Gingrich Wrong on Aid to Egypt
Gingrich was wrong when he said Egypt receives $3 billion a year in foreign aid from the U.S. It actually receives about half that.
Gingrich: “You’re giving some countries $7 billion a year. So you start off — or — or in the case of Egypt $3 billion a year.”
The Congressional Research Service said in a June 15, 2010, report that Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and had been receiving an average of about $2 billion a year since 1979. However, U.S. aid to Egypt has been “trending downward,” CRS said. It now receives a total of about $1.55 billion — roughly $1.3 billion a year in military assistance and $250 million in economic aid.
The level of military aid has remained consistent, the CRS report said.
CRS, June 15: In July 2007, as a part of a larger arms package to the region, the United States announced that it would provide Egypt with $13 billion in military aid over a ten-year period. Since Egypt has already been receiving approximately $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, the announcement represented no major change in U.S. assistance policy toward Egypt.
Similarly, the State Department also says on its website that “U.S. military aid to Egypt totals over $1.3 billion annually.”
However, the CRS says in its report (and in a separate report issued in February 2011) that economic assistance to Egypt has been “significantly reduced” in recent years — in part due to a 10-year agreement known as the Glide Path Agreement that was reached in 1998 that maintained military aid but reduced economic aid.
CRS, Feb. 4, 2011: Thus the United States reduced ESF aid to Egypt from $815 million in FY1998 to $411 million in FY2008. For FY2011, the Administration is requesting $250 million in ESF (Economic Support Fund) Egypt, the same amount it has received since FY2009.
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For fiscal year 2012, the Obama administration requested $1.55 billion in military and economic assistance for Egypt, the CRS said in a September report titled “Egypt in Transition.”
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