America’s largest trading partners are, in order: Canada, the Eurozone, China, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, and India. In an ideal world, a debate about foreign policy would say something about these key states. What did we get last night? Almost nothing. Five of the top ten, including our number one partner, went unmentioned and Europe only came up as a secondary consideration for a point that was really about Iran.
Zero mentions of Canada, though Mitt Romney did implicitly snub Canada and Mexico by promising to make his first presidential visit to Israel rather than following tradition and visiting a neighboring country and key trading partner.
In terms of Europe, Newt Gingrich said “we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.”
China got a bit more discussion. Michele Bachmann said that “when we are sending interest money over to China, with whom we are highly in hock, we’re not just sending our money. We’re sending our power.” That’s false, but it’s at least an effort to grapple with a major international political economy issue. Bachmann also sited China in terms of US education policy, noting that Steve Jobs “said to President Obama that he had to move a great deal of his operation over to China because he couldn’t find 30,000 engineers to be able to do the work that needed to be done.” Ron Paul noted that the US isn’t the only great power in the world “What if we had China put a no-fly zone over our territory? I don’t think – I don’t think we would like that.” Rick Perry made the bizarre argument that “Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues” by which he turned out to mean it’s a country where women have abortions.
Mexico got discussed at some length under the bizarre theory, common to Perry and Herman Cain, that it’s a hotbed of Islamist terrorism.
On Japan, Newt Gingrich said “We defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months because we thought we were serious” a theory that would come as news to the British and Chinese people who were involved in the war for a much longer span of time. Jon Huntsman argued that Japanese growth is slow because their debt to GDP ratio is high, which is backwards.
Nobody mentioned United Kingdom (or “England” or “Britain”) so so much for the special relationship.
No South Korea, no Taiwan, no Brazil.
Rick Perry brought up India. “We’ve got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan,” he said “I think if we would create a trade zone in that part of the world, where you have all of those countries working together, that may be the answer to getting Pakistan to understand that they have to work with all of the countries in that region.”