Earlier this week, the United States filed a well justified complaint with the World Trade Organization against subsidies China provides its auto-parts industries that significantly lower their production costs. In so doing, China undermines the American auto industry.
We join U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, in commending President Barack Obama for taking action to even the trading playing field and to protect auto jobs that make up 12 percent of this state’s total employment and the largest single sector of the Mahoning Valley’s jobs base.
We only wish Obama would have acted sooner to counter questions — including those from China — surrounding his announcement at a campaign stop in the Buckeye State. Some charge it was less of a move to save American autoworkers’ jobs and more of a political ploy to preserve Obama’s own job with the critical help of voters in this colossally important battleground swing state.
Despite the political banter, the complaint has undisputed merit.
It 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 impact of the subsidies is clear. Propped up by some $1 billion in illegal aid over the past three years, Chinese auto-parts imports to the United States have ballooned to $10 billion annually.
As Brown asserts, “We can’t allow the gains made by American automakers, who depend on Ohio parts suppliers and workers, to be undercut by Chinese cheating.”
The president and his trade advisers ought to put pressure on the International Trade Commission to expedite hearings on the complaint so that a resolution to penalize China can result as expeditiously as possible.
He could further prove the sincerity of his get-tough-on-China policy by aggressively supporting Brown’s and Ryan’s calls for action on Chinese currency manipulation. More than six months ago, Ryan and U.S. Rep Mike Michaud, D-Maine, drafted a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to address China’s sleazy monetary magic act that flouts international trade laws and artificially increases its trade advantages.
Ryan, who is featured in the chilling new documentary “Death by China,” argued recently on MSNBC that “if we don’t address the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room, we can’t have the kind of middle class we used to have in cities like Youngstown and Akron.”
Speedy resolution of the auto-parts complaint, coupled with swift action to end the Asian superpower’s money manipulation, will go far toward slaying that gorilla and restoring a semblance of equity in U.S.-China trade.