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DeSantis unveils new economic policy that targets China, taxes and regulations

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to guests during a campaign event, Monday, July 31, 2023, in Rochester, N.H.
Charles Krupa
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to guests during a campaign event, Monday, July 31, 2023, in Rochester, N.H.

Speaking in New Hampshire, DeSantis promised to boost the economy and fight for the middle class, in part by wresting control from China.

In a new policy plan unveiled Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis took aim at China with a “Declaration of Economic Independence” that also targets taxes, regulations and “elites” he blames for the nation’s decline.

Speaking in a New Hampshire warehouse, the Florida governor promised to diversify and expand the economy by fighting for the middle class.

"Revitalizing economic freedom and opportunity will require building an economy where the concerns of average citizens are elevated over those deemed too big to fail,” he said at Prep Partners Group, which coordinates warehousing, distribution and other logistics for other companies.

“We are a nation with an economy, not the other way around,” DeSantis said. “We are citizens of a republic. We are not cogs in a global economic empire.”

DeSantis said his top priority would be wresting economic control from China by ending the nation’s preferential trade status, banning imports of goods made from stolen intellectual property and preventing companies from sharing critical technologies with China. Current polices, he said, have created an “abusive relationship” between the two countries.

“The elites sold us a bill of goods when it came to China. They were wrong, and we need to get it right,” he said.

DeSantis' policy declaration comes after Florida passed a law that restricts people from China and six other countries from owning property in the state.

Four Chinese people and a real-estate brokerage that serves Chinese clients filed a lawsuit last month and sought a preliminary injunction after Ron DeSantis signed the law (SB 264) in May. The lawsuit, which has been backed by the U.S. Department of Justice, contends that the restrictions violate constitutional rights and the federal Fair Housing Act.

The law applies to properties within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of military installations and other “critical infrastructure” and also affects citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. But Chinese citizens and those selling property to them face the harshest penalties. The prohibition also applies to agricultural land.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the law will have a substantial chilling effect on sales to Chinese and Asian people who can legally buy property. The suit says the law unfairly equates Chinese people with the actions of their government and there is no evidence of national security risk from Chinese citizens buying Florida property.

The 10-point economic plan is the third major policy proposal put forth by DeSantis, who remains a distant second to former President Donald Trump in most polls and is fighting for momentum in the midst of a campaign reset. He recently shed more than one-third of his staff as federal filings showed his campaign was burning through cash at an unsustainable rate.

But on Monday, his focus was on reckless federal government spending. His plan describes him as a “new sheriff in town” who will veto wasteful spending and mandate work requirements for welfare programs. He also claimed he could achieve 3% annual economic growth by keeping taxes low, eliminating bureaucracy and incentivizing investment.

On the education front, DeSantis said he will stop incentivizing “useless degrees” by making universities responsible for the loans their students accrue.

“It’s wrong to say that a truck driver should have to pay off the debt of somebody who got a degree in gender studies,” he said.

After the speech, in what was billed as a news conference, DeSantis sidestepped a question about Trump’s mounting legal fees. That’s even as the DeSantis campaign has been attacking Trump for devoting much of his political fundraising to his legal entanglements.

“We’re here to talk about restoring this economy. We’re here to talk about uplifting the middle class,” DeSantis said. “To me, if you ask voters, are they more interested in hearing about that or the process stories about politics? I think that they want to hear about the country’s future so that’s what we’re going to talk about.”

A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee said DeSantis should be talking about the economic woes he created in Florida including the rising costs of housing, property insurance and health care.

“It remains a mystery why DeSantis would try to reboot his dumpster fire of a campaign by promising to bring his failures as governor nationwide,” Ammar Moussa said.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.