Obama Gets Tough On China's Auto Subsidies

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized President Obama for not taking a harder line against China. On Monday, the White House announced a new trade complaint over what the administration calls China's unfair subsidies for auto parts. The news came as Obama campaigned in Ohio, where auto parts are big business.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in this campaign, Mitt Romney has offered a full-throated criticism of President Obama's stance on trade with China, accusing the president of not being tough enough. Yesterday, the White House announced a new trade complaint against what it calls China's unfair subsidies for auto parts. It came just as the president was campaigning in Ohio, where auto parts are big business. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The leader of the United Auto Workers issued a formal statement yesterday applauding the president's decision to bring a trade case against China. Mr. Obama also got a more personal thank you from UAW member Jeff Gace in Columbus, Ohio.

JEFF GACE: I was born and raised in central Ohio, and today I help lead the same local my late father helped found.

HORSLEY: Gace works at a company in Delaware, Ohio that makes paint for the auto industry. His company is hiring these days, and Gace credits the president's decision early on in his administration to rescue Chrysler and General Motors.

GACE: Because he did, the plant I work at is running full steam ahead, six to seven days a week.

(APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: The auto industry is a major employer in Ohio, tied directly or indirectly to one out of eight jobs in the state. That includes more than 54,000 employees in the auto parts business. Yesterday, the Obama administration announced an effort to protect those jobs from what it calls unfair competition from China. The president told supports in Columbus he's filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Chinese export subsidies that put U.S. parts makers at a competitive disadvantage.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's not right, it's against the rules, we're not going to let it stand. American workers build better products than anybody. Made in America means something, and when the playing field is level, we always win.

HORSLEY: It's the second time in just over two months that Mr. Obama has announced a trade enforcement action while campaigning in Ohio. This summer he filed another complaint with the WTO, accusing China of slapping illegal tariffs on cars and trucks imported from the U.S.

OBAMA: We've brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two.

HORSLEY: Getting tough on trade with China is often a popular theme for politicians, especially in the industrial Midwest. Lately, Mitt Romney has been taking the president to task for not being tough enough. A Romney TV commercial says the president's trade policy has failed American workers. Romney calls this week's WTO case too little, too late.

MITT ROMNEY: The president may think that announcing new trade lawsuits less than two months before the election will distract from his record, but American businesses and workers struggling in an uneven playing field know better. If I'd known that all it took to get him to take action was to run an ad citing his inaction on China's cheating, I'd have run one a long time ago.

HORSLEY: But the White House insists Mr. Obama is no Johnny-come-lately on trade enforcement. Back in 2009, he challenged China over a flood of cheap tire imports. Romney criticized that case in his book "No Apology," calling it a protectionist move to help a friendly labor union. Mr. Obama notes since that case was filed, the domestic tire industry has enjoyed a modest rebound, adding about 1,000 jobs.

OBAMA: But you can't just talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I wake up every single day thinking about America's workers and making sure they've got a fair shot in this economy.

HORSLEY: Ohio's economy is doing better than most, with an unemployment rate nearly a full point below the national average. Scott Horsley, NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: