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Sources: Obama launches new China trade action
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama is launching a new trade enforcement case against China as he seeks an advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney on an economic issue that has become a flashpoint in the presidential campaign.
Senior administration officials said Mr. Obama will announce the new action, targeting Chinese subsidies for exports of automobiles and automobile parts, Monday during a campaign trip to Ohio. The swing state has a large manufacturing base where many blame China for depressing its industry. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the trade action publicly ahead of the president.
Mr. Obama’s announcement comes as both campaigns have pushed China — and the economy — to the forefront of the White House race as they seek to refocus after a week dominated by foreign policy and the turbulent events at U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East.
Mr. Romney on Monday is targeting his economic message to Hispanics, a key voting bloc with whom Obama enjoys an advantage.
“Many Hispanics have sacrificed greatly to help build our country and our economy, and to leave for their children a brighter future,” Mr. Romney said in excerpts released ahead of his speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Today, those sacrifices are being squandered by a president who cannot stop spending.”
Mr. Romney said his test on federal spending would be whether a program is “so critical that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it.”
Mr. Romney has accused Mr. Obama of being weak on China and ceding American jobs to the rising Asian power. The president countered with claims that Mr. Romney has investments in Chinese companies and outsourced jobs to China while running the private equity firm Bain Capital.
On Monday, Mr. Obama was turning to the power of incumbency to try to gain the upper hand on the debate.
Officials said the administration will launch enforcement action at the World Trade Organization because it says China is illegally subsidizing exports in their autos and auto parts sectors. The U.S. says the practice puts American parts manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage and encourages the outsourcing of production to China.
Jobs in the U.S. auto parts sector dropped by roughly half between 2001 and 2010, while U.S. imports of auto parts from China have increased seven-fold, according to the Obama administration.
The administration also is escalating another case it brought against China at the WTO in July that accuses China of imposing unfair duties on more than $3 billion in exports of U.S. autos. The duties cover more than 80 percent of American auto exports to China, said the officials, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the trade action ahead of the president.
The cases stem from the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, which Mr. Obama set up earlier this year to target unfair practices around the world, particularly in China.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney started trading barbs on China late last week.
Mr. Romney released a television advertisement Thursday accusing Mr. Obama of “failing American workers” and ignoring unfair trade practices by China. And in his weekly podcast Saturday Mr. Romney said, “In 2008, candidate Obama promised to take China ‘to the mat.’ But since then, he’s let China run all over us.”
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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