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Donald Trump Claims the TPP Is a Nefarious Plot by China. Fact: China Is Not Part of the TPP.

There were a few lowlights during Tuesday night’s Republican debate, some of them retreads. Ted Cruz plugged the gold standard, yet again. Carly Fiorina talked about how she would reduce the tax code to three pages, yet again. In an original twist, John Kasich appeared unaware that bank accounts are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation during a discussion about financial industry bailouts.* But the most embarrassingly incoherent moment of the evening probably belonged to Donald Trump, who used a discussion of the ever-controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to engage in his favorite activity, China bashing:

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The TPP is a horrible deal, a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble. It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door, and totally take advantage of everyone. It’s 5,600 pages long. So complex that nobody’s read it. Like Obamacare. Nobody ever read it. They passed it, nobody read it. And look at mess we have right now, and it will be repealed. But this is one of the worst trade deals, and I would, yes, rather not have it.

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There is one especially major problem with this line of argument, which Trump might have picked up on had he at least bothered to read one of the numerous articles outlining the basics of the deal: China is not part of the TPP negotiations. There are 12 countries involved. None is known as the People’s Republic. One of the biggest arguments in favor of the deal, in fact, is that it will allow the U.S. to set the terms of trade in the Pacific, rather than letting China do so. While Beijing has sort of left open the possibility of eventually joining the pact, it hasn’t had a hand in designing it.

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For a moment, it seemed as if this fact would go unremarked upon. But, mercifully, Rand Paul stepped in. “We might want to point out China is not part of this deal,” he said. For some reason, Fox accidentally began playing some brassy outro music behind him as he further discussed his position on trade, which made him sound a tad heroic. And in that moment, Rand Paul was. Truly.

Update, Nov. 12, 9:19 a.m.: Trump has defended himself! (And he says I and others have totally misconstrued his words, of course.) Read more about this kerfuffle, as well as my longer take on Trump, China, and the TPP, here

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary. 

*Correction, Nov. 11, 2015: This post originally misstated that Bush also seemed unaware during the debate that the FDIC exists. After reviewing the transcript, I realized that I had misremembered, and only Kasich suggested such. My apologies.

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