According to TechAmerica, tech manufacturing employed 1.8 million people in the U.S. in 2000, but that number had fallen to 1.27 million by last year.
Romney argued that the shift of jobs from the U.S. to overseas locations is a result of U.S. policy. "We have made it less attractive for enterprises to stay here" he said.
Romney said he would implement policies that make the U.S. more attractive to entrepreneurs, and to small and big businesses, while going after China for "artificially holding down the value of their currency."
China's currency valuation "means their prices on their goods are low," said Romney, who also called for bringing down tax rates on employers and cutting regulations, while eliminating the so-called Obamacare health care program.
Obama, in response, said he agreed with Romney that the corporate tax rate should be lowered but said he disagreed with the challenger about how to do it.
"I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China; that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed, so they have tax advantages offshore," Obama said.
Obama said that Romney wants to expand tax breaks in ways that will encourage outsourcing. Those breaks pushed by Romney will create jobs, Obama said, adding that "the problem is they'll be in China, or India, or Germany."
Crowley fired off her own outsourcing question after Obama finished responding to Romney.
Asked Crowley: "[The] iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?"
"The answer is very straightforward," said Romney. "We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level," he said.
Romney said China has been "stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology. There's even an Apple store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers," he said.
Obama said "there are some jobs that are not going to come back, because they are low wage, low skill jobs. I want high wage, high skill jobs."
To help get those jobs created, Obama said his administration is investing in efforts to produce advanced manufacturing tools.
"That's why we've got to make sure that we've got the best science and research in the world," said Obama.