WASHINGTON — Continuing the administration’s push to challenge China’s trading tactics, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the United States will file a trade complaint against the world’s largest country.
“Our competitors should be on notice, you will not get away with skirting the rules,” Obama said Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden. “We’ve got to take control of our energy future and we can’t let that energy industry take root in some other country because they were allowed to break the rules.”
The European Union and Japan joined the United States’ complaint to the World Trade Organization that claims some of China’s export restrictions unfairly favor its domestic companies in the global market. These restrictions center around 17 rare earth metals, along with tungsten and molybdenum, used in the creation of high-tech products, including advanced batteries for cell phones and hybrid cars as well as car parts, televisions and other electronics.
“China’s restrictions on rare earths and other products violate international trade rules and must be removed,” said European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. “These measures hurt our producers and consumers in the EU and across the world, including manufacturers of pioneering high-tech and ‘green’ business applications.”
China supplies over 90 percent of the market’s rare earth metals. Chinese officials believe that aggressive mining tactics damaged their environment and assert that their policies were “drawn up out of concern for the environment and the sustainable use and development of resources.”
Many U.S. lawmakers from both parties have come out in support of the move, but Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urged the United States to go further, but requesting that international banks block Chinese mining projects until the export restrictions are lifted.
The U.S.- China trading relationship has become a contentious issue during this presidency, as the 2011 U.S. trade deficit with China surpassed $295 billion. In his State of the Union address, Obama highlighted that the administration has brought twice the number of trade cases against China compared to the George W. Bush administration. Further, keeping with his promise outlined in the State of the Union, Obama signed an executive order at the end of February to create a trade enforcement unit tasked with protecting “U.S. trade rights under international trade agreements.”
“We believe that China’s rise is a good thing for the Chinese people, the global community, and the United States,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. “It is also important that as China becomes a bigger and bigger economic power, that China play by the same set of rules that other major economic powers play by.”