foreign policy

Would you maintain heightened tariffs on China if Beijing does not agree to restrict the country’s ability to steal intellectual property and force U.S. companies in China to reveal trade secrets?

Open to it — tariffs can be an effective tool

Open to it — tariffs can be an effective tool

Some candidates were open to tariffs, but questioned Trump’s use of them

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. Klobuchar is open to using tariffs against China, her campaign told The Post. “So what I think we need to do is to go back to the negotiating table — that's what I would do. I wouldn't have put all these tariffs in place,” Klobuchar said in the third Democratic debate.

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Amy Klobuchar

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. “Yes, tariffs on China are an absolute necessity for balancing the American trade deficit,” Ryan told The Post. “With that being said, the goods being targeted — and the tariff rates — are abominable and must be revised immediately. I think there are legal remedies that can be used that carry the weight of a legal regime as opposed to the nonsensical order in which President Trump has imposed tariffs. President Trump's tariffs have cost American farmers, manufacturers and working families billions of dollars. What's worse, his rhetoric and strategy [have] resulted in retaliatory tariffs, leading to the economic insecurity of the American people. ... Tariffs on China must be implemented in a more targeted, diplomatic way. Otherwise, our industries and working families will continue to foot the bill.”

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Tim Ryan

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “My administration will begin a full review of tariffs against China, including advice from experts about which tariffs are working and what policies will substantially reduce our record-breaking trade deficit with China and bring back good-paying jobs in the U.S. that have been outsourced to China. Tariffs may be *part* of the answer, but the Trump administration lacks a serious strategy for reducing our trade deficit with China or bringing back U.S. jobs that have been outsourced to China,” Sanders told The Post. “Instead of conducting trade policy by tweet, we need a complete overhaul of our trade policies to increase American jobs, raise wages and lift up living standards in this country and throughout the world.”

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Bernie Sanders

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. “It depends on what the circumstances are a year and a half from now,” Warren told The Post. “Tariffs are one of the important tools we can use -- but tariffs alone are not a long-term solution to the failed trade agenda of the last 30 years. For the past two years, Donald Trump has established that trade policy by tweet does not work. We need a real, coherent trade strategy that tackles the challenge of China’s commercial behavior and protects American workers. Instead of alienating our allies and others who share these concerns, my administration will work with those countries to use America’s leverage and all of the tools at our disposal to invest in American workers and raise standards across the globe.”

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Elizabeth Warren

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)


Williamson is no longer running for president. “No. I am not inherently closed to the idea of tariffs, but I question the president’s heavy-handed use of them in the current case,” Williamson told The Post. “China is taking advantage of the American worker. And the American worker has the right to feel that the government has their back, and is always ready to protect them from exploitation of a foreign government.”

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Marianne Williamson

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. Yang is open to maintaining some tariffs, "limited to targeting areas of bad acting, such as intellectual property theft," he told The Post. In the third Democratic debate, Yang said he “would not repeal the tariffs on day one, but I would let the Chinese know that we need to hammer out a deal, because right now, the tariffs are pummeling producers and farmers in Iowa who have absolutely nothing to do with the imbalances that we have with China.”

May 28: “Tariffs hurt businesses and workers on both sides. As someone who has run a business I would want greater notice if prices are going to change - companies make investments years in advance.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang

No, apply pressure in other ways

No, apply pressure in other ways

Some highlighted other ways to counter China, such as with diplomacy or by focusing on U.S. competitiveness

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. Bennet “believes Trump’s trade war is reckless and has opened up our farmers, ranchers, businesses and workers to retaliation without addressing any of the unfair trade practices that are hurting our country,” a Bennet spokesperson told The Post. “Instead of alienating our allies, we must do the tough work of building coalitions of traditional and non-traditional allies and partners to apply real pressure on China to stop their unfair trade practices that undermine American workers and businesses, and to set the rules of the road on issues like economic trade, digital freedom and tech standards. We must out-compete China by investing in our own competitive advantages — like research and development in technologies of the future, and education.”

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Michael Bennet

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “I believe that we need to be strategic and work with our allies as we confront China,” Bullock told The Post. “We can be more effective in curbing China’s bad behavior by working together to apply pressure in targeted areas, without harming American workers and families by using the blunt instrument of tariffs.”

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Steve Bullock

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. “Probably not. Tariffs are just another form of taxes on the American people,” Gabbard told The Post. “Trump’s trade war with China has been enormously destabilizing and bad for American farmers and businesses. It also undermines peace between [the] U.S. and China. It is a lose-lose situation. Future U.S. actions must be part of a larger strategy that provides stability & certainty for our economy.” When asked at the second Democratic debate whether she would keep Trump's tariffs in place, Gabbard said, “I would not, because the approach that President Trump has taken has been extremely volatile without any clear strategic plan, and it has a ravaging and devastating effect on our domestic manufacturers, on our farmers.”

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Tulsi Gabbard

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. “No, the scattershot tariffs hurt our economy (and are not succeeding in getting China to behave responsibly). But I do believe that China's theft of our intellectual property, its opaque subsidies, vast state-owned firms and mercantile treatment of other countries is unacceptable, but I would address it in much more effective ways,” Sestak told The Post.

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Joe Sestak

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. Steyer would apply pressure on China in other ways, rather than by maintaining heightened tariffs on China, he told The Post.

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Tom Steyer

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“President Trump’s damaging and erratic trade war is crushing American farmers and manufacturers. It’s easy to talk tough when someone else is feeling the pain. Meanwhile, Trump is attacking the very partners we need with us to deal with China,” Biden told The Post. “My administration will bring our allies together to challenge China’s abusive behavior and rally more than half the world’s economy to hold China to account for their cheating. We also need to tighten up our economic defenses so that American companies don’t have to keep giving away technology to China, or having it stolen. In the Obama-Biden administration, we got China to curb its cyber-theft; it’s gotten worse under Trump.”

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Joe Biden

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. Bloomberg did not answer this question by publication.

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Mike Bloomberg

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. “I support aggressive action to combat China’s unfair trade practices. As president, I would work with our allies to develop a coherent trade policy that holds China to account and puts American workers on an equal playing field,” Booker told The Post.

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Cory Booker

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. “China has long exploited America’s economic openness and leveraged its state-linked firms as a tool of its authoritarian foreign policy,” Buttigieg told The Post. “My administration would give away nothing to Beijing for free. But because tariffs can be de facto domestic taxes, imposing real costs on American workers and farmers, they should be employed only with a clear strategy and endgame, and in coordination with our allies. America must focus on investing in our national competitiveness, and leading a global coalition to pressure Beijing to end its unacceptable trade practices.” In the third Democratic debate, Buttigieg said he would have “a strategy that would include the tariffs as leverage.”

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Pete Buttigieg

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. “The problem is that the president has done a terrible job when it comes to laying the groundwork, setting the foundation to actually outcompete a country like China,” Castro told New York Magazine. “He’s chosen a go-it-alone strategy that is hurting everybody from farmers in Iowa to business owners in Texas. And it doesn’t help many people.” He did not answer this question by publication. In the third Democratic debate, Castro said, “I would immediately begin to negotiate with China to ratchet down that trade war. We have leverage there.”

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Julian Castro

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. De Blasio did not answer this question by publication.

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Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “We need to negotiate with China from a position of strength, and that means ending trade wars with our closest friends and allies so that we can join forces in confronting Beijing,” Delaney said in a May speech. Delaney did not answer this question by publication.

May 15: “The President's empty promises are now turning into millions of dollars in losses from hardworking farmers across the country.”

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John Delaney

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. Harris did not answer this question by publication. She said she was “not a protectionist Democrat” during the third Democratic debate.

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Kamala Harris

Beto O'Rourke (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke is no longer running for president. “We need to work strategically with our allies and partners to stabilize our markets and protect the suppliers, producers and workers who are fundamental to the success of the U.S. economy, regardless of what China does,” an O'Rourke spokesperson told The Post. “This means having a strategy that ensures we can continue to sell our products around the world while enforcing U.S. laws to ensure fair competition at home. Holding China accountable should not come at the expense of American workers. That is why we must not settle for any deal that does not respect intellectual property, level the playing field in the Chinese market and end unfair trade practices. But we must act in collaboration with our allies in the region and with a clear strategy.”

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Beto O'Rourke

Deval Patrick (Dropped out)

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is no longer running for president. Patrick did not answer this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Deval Patrick

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Background President Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on China, prompting a trade war that has roiled global markets, has been a defining policy of his first term. Trump has argued that tariffs will eventually force China to buy more from the United States, lowering the trade deficit. He has also argued that they will force China to remove protectionist policies, including rules that require the transfer of intellectual property by U.S. firms that do business in the country. China has responded with its own tariffs on U.S. imports, although negotiations continue.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. foreign policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.