As President Barack Obama campaigned in Ohio on Monday, his administration filed a pair of new challenges to Chinese trade practices alleging subsidies to that nation's auto industry.
The United States has requested "dispute settlement consultations" at the World Trade Organization, according to the office of United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
The filings allege that China has provided at least $1 billion in unfair subsidies to automakers and auto parts companies between 2009 and 2011.
"We insist upon having a level playing field on which our world-class manufacturers can compete," Kirk said in a written statement. "Today we are continuing to make it clear to our trading partners that we will fight to support each job here at home that this sector supports."
He added, "Export subsidies are prohibited under WTO rules because they are unfair and severely distort international trade."
Obama, campaigning in Ohio where automotive manufacturing is a critical element in the state economy, said that today's effort was just one in a long line of trade-related challenges to China mounted by his administration, "this one against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto parts manufacturing jobs overseas."
"Those subsidies directly harm working men and women on the assembly line in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest," Obama said, according to a text of his remarks as prepared for delivery. "It's not right; it's against the rules; and we will not let it stand."
He added, "American workers build better products than anyone. 'Made in America' means something. And when the playing field is level, America will always win."
Obama also took aim at his Republican challenger, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who oversaw companies accused of being early adopters of the practice of outsourcing U.S. jobs overseas.
"I understand my opponent has been running around Ohio claiming he's going to roll up his sleeves and take the fight to China. But here's the thing: his experience has been owning companies that were called 'pioneers' in the business of outsourcing jobs to countries like China. Pioneers!"
He added, "Ohio, you can't stand up to China when all you've done is send them our jobs."
Obama said that he has done everything in his power to challenge unfair trade practices.
"My experience has been waking up every single day doing everything I can to give American workers a fair shot in the global economy," he said. "When other countries don't play by the rules, we've done something about it."
Obama added, "We've brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two - and we've won."
Romney, however, derided Obama's WTO challenges as "too little, too late."
"President Obama has spent 43 months failing to confront China's unfair trade practices," Romney said in a written statement. "President Obama's credibility on this issue has long since vanished. I will not wait until the last months of my presidency to stand up to China, or do so only when votes are at stake."
He added, "From Day One, I will pursue a comprehensive strategy to confront China's unfair trade practices and ensure a level playing field where our businesses can compete and win."
by RTT Staff Writer
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