Scott Walker: Cancel Chinese president’s White House visit

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Scott Walker says President Barack Obama should cancel the visit of China's president

"there's serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance," Walker said Monday

Washington CNN  — 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is calling on President Barack Obama to cancel Chinese President Xi Jinping’s September visit to Washington – channeling Donald Trump’s attacks on the United States’ biggest Asian trading partner.

Walker, a Republican presidential contender, made his call after U.S. stocks tumbled on Monday amid global fears of China’s economic slowdown.

In a statement, Walker – whose standing in Iowa, a key early state, has suffered as Trump has risen in GOP polls – accused China of manipulating its economy, echoing critiques of the Asian giant that have come from populists like Trump.

He said Obama should “focus on holding China accountable over its increasing attempts to undermine U.S. interests,” rather than hosting Xi.

“Given China’s massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and human rights activists, President Obama needs to cancel the state visit,” Walker said. “There’s serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama on U.S.-China relations.”

Trump has made attacks on China, as well as Mexico, centerpieces of his campaign – accusing U.S. trade negotiators of hashing out bad deals with the countries.

The United States doesn’t have a free trade agreement with China, but it did drop tariffs with Mexico through the early-1990s North American Free Trade Agreement.

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The United States and China, meanwhile, frequently find themselves at odds in trade talks at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. The two countries have faced off in trade disputes over rare earth minerals, tires and more, and U.S. officials are regularly asked to slap trade taxes on Chinese goods to make up for the government’s intervention in the country’s economy and for its efforts to devalue its own currency in order to gain a price advantage in the United States.

Still, a tougher approach to China, and particularly a crackdown on the country’s currency manipulation, is a line most typically pushed by populist Democrats on Capitol Hill – rather than GOP presidential candidates.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama has not called Chinese officials to discuss the country’s currency. He said the Treasury Department has been monitoring global markets – including China’s.

He said Chinese currency manipulation and cyber-espionage will be topics of conversation when Xi visits the White House in September.

Walker’s proposal to cancel Xi’s visit was mocked by Dan Pfeiffer, a former top aide in Obama’s White House, who tweeted that Walker “is really bad at being Donald Trump.”

In 2013, before he entered the Republican presidential race, Walker met with Xi during a visit to Beijing. There, he reportedly told the Chinese president of Wisconsin’s plans to set up a trade and cultural promotion center in the country, and praised the relationship between China and U.S. states.

Walker also supported a company based in Beijing and Milwaukee that helped wealthy Chinese immigrants gain U.S. citizenship.

Walker’s Wisconsin public-private economic development arm, meanwhile, is planning a trade venture to China in January, and is joining a larger trade venture as part of a regional group in May.

CNN’s Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.