- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2017

With eight days remaining in office, President Obama filed a trade complaint Thursday against China over subsidies for aluminum producers.

The administration’s complaint with the World Trade Organization contends that China gives its aluminum industry an unfair advantage through low-cost loans and other illegal government subsidies.

“These kinds of policies have disadvantaged American manufacturers and contributed to the global glut in aluminum, steel, and other sectors,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “We’re taking action to protect the workers — at home and around the world — who are hurt every day by these policies.”

If the U.S. wins the case, the ruling would take place under the incoming administration of Donald Trump, who has pledged to crack down on China’s trade practices.

It’s the 16th time that the Obama administration has taken complaints about China to the WTO. Of the seven cases that have been decided, the U.S. has won all seven.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican whose home state of Kentucky has about 20,000 jobs connected to the aluminum industry, praised the administration’s move. He had asked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to pursue a case.

“Though late in coming, I applaud the U.S. Trade Representative’s decision to challenge unfair aluminum subsidies at the WTO,” Mr. McConnell said. “This will be welcome news for the many aluminum industry workers in Kentucky, who play a vital economic role in the Commonwealth. I am pleased that Ambassador Froman took my conversation with him seriously.”

Ohio’s U.S. senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, said they, too, deserve credit for lobbying Mr. Froman in October.

“When competitors like China cheat by subsidizing domestic industry, it leads to a flood of unfair and illegal imports that hurt Ohio companies that play by the rules,” Mr. Portman said. “I am pleased that the administration followed my and Sen. Brown’s advice and is standing up for U.S. aluminum producers at the WTO.”

Mr. Brown said thousands of Ohio workers “have lost jobs because of unfairly subsidized aluminum from China that has flooded the market and led to overcapacity, and it’s past time we get tough on these violations before more American workers suffer.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. has filed more complaints against China to the WTO than any other country in the past eight years. He said the incoming Trump administration will be hard-pressed to match Mr. Obama’s record on that front.

“At some point [in the] next year, you will hear a robust case from the incoming administration about their proposal to ensure that America and our economy is protected when it comes to global trade,” Mr. Earnest said. “They’ll have a very high standard to meet when you consider the success of the Obama administration not just in terms of bringing these cases to the WTO but also when you consider the performance of our broader economy.”

As for the timing, Mr. Earnest said the administration tried to work out a resolution with Beijing, and that Mr. Obama raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But he said when an agreement wasn’t possible, the administration decided to take action and notified the Trump team about the move.

“When we don’t see the kind of response that we would like to see, on the timeline that we would like to see it, then we don’t hesitate to go to the World Trade Organization and hold them accountable for their actions,” he said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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