U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, vocal opponents of China’s trade policies, praised the decision by President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Chinese subsidies to auto and auto-parts exporters.
“This is something we’ve been lobbying the president for a long time,” Ryan said Monday about the complaint filed the same day.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, called the announcement “campaign-driven,” and said Obama hasn’t “aggressively [pursued] countries like China who have used unfair subsidies and trade barriers to disadvantage American workers.”
Ryan said anything done this close to the election “will be looked at through some political prism,” but “there’s a consistent philosophy” by Obama on China.
This is Obama’s eighth WTO complaint against China during his time as president, which began in January 2009, and the third this year.
Brown and Ryan have urged the president since March to file the complaint. China’s “cheating in the auto-parts trade places more than 1.6 million American jobs at risk,” said Brown, who led 188 members of Congress in persuading Obama to file the complaint.
The president has worked to level the playing field by imposing tariffs on China for subsidizing steel tubing and vehicle tires, Ryan said.
When asked why it took so long for the Obama administration to file the auto and auto-parts complaint, Ryan said issues as complex as this take time to properly review in order to build a strong case.
The Obama complaint contends China puts American manufacturers at a disadvantage by providing illegal subsidies to auto and auto-parts exporters to make those items less expensive. The administration will request an International Trade Commission investigation of Chinese auto-parts imports, Brown said.
“We can’t allow the gains made by American automakers, who depend on Ohio parts suppliers and workers, to be undercut by Chinese cheating,” Brown said. “With the auto industry on the rebound in Ohio, thanks in large part to the rescue plan, we must work aggressively to protect these good-paying manufacturing jobs. Saving Ohio auto jobs requires enforcing our trade laws, especially as China ramps up subsidies in strategic industries like auto parts.”
Portman, a former U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, sees it differently.
“I continue to be disappointed that President Obama has refused to take on China’s manipulation of their currency, which he has failed to do seven times since being elected,” Portman said. “With the trade deficit with China at an all-time high, the president is attempting to convince Ohio workers that he can improve their economic prospects and provide them with a better tomorrow.”
But Obama’s track record says otherwise, Portman said.