UPDATE (11:35 a.m.) — A White House spokesman dismissed suggestions that the complaint was politically motivated, designed to boost President Obama’s standing with voters just a few months before the election.
“This is an action that has been in development for quite a long time,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “It can’t suddenly be a political action because [it] happens during the campaign.”
– End Update –
The Obama administration announced Thursday that it has filed a dispute against China with the World Trade Organization. The complaint seeks the WTO’s help in forcing China to rescind $3 billion worth of duties on American-made cars and SUVs.
“The Obama Administration will continue to fight to ensure that China does not misuse its trade laws and violate its international trade commitments to block exports of American-made products,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “American auto workers and manufacturers deserve a level playing field and we are taking every step necessary to stand up for them.”
President Obama is expected to mention the dispute at some point during his campaign visits to Ohio and Pennsylvania today and tomorrow.
More from a statement released by the administration:
Through this case, the United States is addressing its concerns that China’s duties on imports of American-made vehicles appear to be inconsistent with WTO rules. Consultations are the first step in a WTO dispute. Under WTO rules, if parties do not resolve a matter through consultations within 60 days, complainants may request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel.
This is the latest in a series of enforcement steps the Administration has recently taken to continue to hold China accountable for its WTO commitments. In two earlier WTO cases, the United States challenged duties that China had imposed to restrict imports of certain steel products and chicken products from the United States. The United States has also brought actions against China’s export restraints on several industrial raw materials, including rare earths, China’s restrictions on electronic payment services and subsidies to China’s wind power equipment sector. In each of these matters, the key principle at stake is that China must play by the rules to which it agreed when it joined the WTO. Those commitments include maintaining open markets on a non-discriminatory basis, and following internationally-agreed procedures in a transparent way. In addition, the United States previously invoked a China-specific safeguard to address rapidly increasing imports of Chinese passenger and light truck tires.