Well, sort of. It's more detail on WTO law than one usually gets from politicians, at least. Here's something from a recent debate:
Scott Pelley: That's time, Governor. But I would like to ask you a follow-up on that point. You-- you talked about all the things that China should be doing. How do you affect that as commander in chief? How do you make China do these things?
Mitt Romney: Well number one, on day one, it's acknowledging something which everyone knows, they're a currency manipulator. And on that basis, we also go before the W.T.-- the W.T.O. and bring an action against them as a currency manipulator. And that allows us to apply, selectively, tariffs where we believe they are stealing our intellectual property, hacking into our computers, or artificially lowering their prices and killing American jobs. We can't just sit back and let China run all over us. People say, "Well, you'll start a trade war." There's one goin' on right now, folks. They're stealing our jobs. And we're gonna stand up to China.
Major Garrett: Governor Huntsman, Governor Romney just said we're in the middle of a war that's-- we're not even declared or we're not even aware of. And Governor Perry said China will end up on the ash heap of history. You've been in China. You were the ambassador for our nation there under President Obama. What's your reaction?
Jon Huntsman: Well, the re-- reality's a little different as it usually is when you're on the ground. And I've tried to figure this out for 30 years of my career. First of all, I don't think, Mitt, you can take-- China to the W.T.O. on currency-related issues. Second, I-- I don't know that this country needs a trade war with China. Who does it hurt? Our small businesses in South Carolina, our exporters-- our agriculture producers.
We don't need that at a time when China is about to embark on a generational position. So what should we be doing? We should be reaching out to our allies and constituencies within China. They're called the young people. They're called the internet generation. There are 500 million internet users in China.
Huntsman elaborated on these views in a subsequent interview:
HUNT: Let’s go to China, where you were the former ambassador. You and Governor Romney had at it a little bit in that debate last Saturday where you - you at one point said that you really can’t take currency to WTO. I think you really can, according to our experts, but is the real problem - is your fear is that we might lose it if we were to take it to the WTO?
HUNTSMAN: Well, there’s no provision there for it. And so you take it to the WTO. They’re going to bring a countersuit and you’re wasting a whole lot of time on an issue that is getting no traction. Meanwhile, you slap a tariff that Governor Romney is proposing. They will then say, “Whoa. Your quantitative easing programs in the United States have done the same thing to the dollar. We’re going to slap a counter-tariff on you,” and you got a trade war.
I saw the same thing with the Tires 421 case about three years ago. They hit a counter-tariff on poultry and, you know, it - it really hit us both. And it was a reminder that this is where the relationship is these days. And we are - it’s unavoidable. You sit down. You negotiate your way through these issues. It’s tough. It’s a grind, but you also have to realize that it’s a multi-faceted relationship.
So Romney wants to challenge China's currency practices at the WTO, whereas Huntsman's view seems to be that there is no WTO provision that covers currency issue, so there's no case to bring.
Clearly, there are provisions that could be invoked -- GATT Article XV:4, the SCM Agreement and the non-violation provisions have all been discussed at great length as possible options -- so in that sense Huntsman is wrong. Whether a claim would be successful is another question, of course, as the interviewer notes.
If Romney becomes the Republican nominee, and continues to press the view that a WTO complaint should be brought, I wonder if this issue will become even more prominent.