WASHINGTON, Sept 17 — President Barack Obama will launch a trade complaint against China over what it says is Beijing’s unfair government backing of its auto industry, a White House official said yesterday.
Obama will announce today that he is initiating a case against China at the World Trade Organisation over allegedly illegal subsidies for automobiles and auto parts during a campaign tour of Ohio, the official said.
Ohio relies heavily on the auto industry and is a politically important swing state.
“The key principle at stake is that China must play by the rules of the global trading system,” the official said. “When it does not, the Obama administration will take action to ensure that American businesses and workers are competing on a level playing field.”
Obama has said Beijing is abusing trade laws by imposing more than US$3 billion (RM9.5 billion) in duties on US auto exports. In addition to launching the subsidies case, the president is taking the next formal step in the World Trade Organisation to protest those duties, the official said.
The trade enforcement steps come as Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney vie for a few important states, including Ohio, which could determine the outcome of the November 6 presidential election. Obama holds a narrow lead in polls, but the sluggish economy and unemployment rate have weighed on the president’s re-election bid.
In recent days, Obama’s handling of foreign affairs has jumped to the forefront as tensions boil over in the Middle East. The China trade case may shift the focus to the president’s management of the sometimes contentious US relationship with China.
Romney has accused Obama of making too many concessions to the Asian powerhouse and has promised to be tougher on issues such as trade and currency manipulation. The Obama campaign has frequently stated that, during his business career, Romney was responsible for sending many US jobs overseas.
In Ohio, the auto-parts industry directly employs 54,200 people, the administration official said. When related industries like steel, aluminium, plastics and electronics are taken into account, the sector supports about 12.4 per cent of the state’s total employment, the official added.
Obama constantly reminds Ohio audiences of his administration’s decision to throw a lifeline to auto companies during the recession and Romney’s opposition to that bailout. — Reuters