(CNN) – The latest ad from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign hits President Barack Obama for his stance on China, which the ad characterizes as devastating to the American manufacturing sector.
"Under Obama, we've lost over half a million manufacturing jobs," a narrator in the ad says. "And for the first time, China is beating us."
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The spot cites figures showing China becoming the world's top manufacturing country in 2011, which that narrator casts as a result of Obama refusal to "stop China's cheating."
That's a reference to decisions made by the U.S. Treasury not to label China a "currency manipulator," a designation that would allow the U.S. to more directly confront China over actions that have cheapened their exports, undercut the prices of American goods and produce economic growth rates several times that of the U.S.
Some critics warn that labeling China a currency manipulator could risk triggering a trade war. China could retaliate by launching tariffs of its own.
In a statement responding to the ad, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said, "President Obama has always stood up for American workers, regardless of politics. He's filed seven trade complaints against China, bringing cases at twice the rate of the Bush Administration."
"The job losses that his new ad references occurred in the first months after the President took office," Smith said. "Now, American manufacturers have added half a million jobs since January 2010 – the fastest manufacturing job growth since the 1990s."
The claims in the television ad were echoed by the candidate on the trail Thursday in Virginia, when Romney told a crowd of supporters "If a nation cheats like China has cheated, we call them on the carpet and don't let it continue."
"The president has had the chance year after year to label, to label China a currency manipulator, but he hasn't done so and I will label China the currency manipulator they are on the first day," he continued.
Similar criticism from Romney has been met with sharp rebukes in the past from the White House. In May, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "Despite his tough talk now, Gov. Romney wasn't always for enforcing trade laws against China."
"In his book, Gov. Romney attacked the president for standing up for American workers and businesses by enforcing trade law against China, even calling it 'bad for the nation and our workers,'" Carney told reporters.
CNN Money's Annalyn Censky and CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.