Despite repeated denials by both China and the United States that the two countries are involved in a trade war, rhetoric and tensions have been increasing in recent months.
Earlier today a WTO panel ruled that China has violated international trade agreements by imposing antidumping duties of up to 65% on electrical steel imports from the U.S. Now U.S. trade officials are considering additional actions to curtail what it considers unfair trade practices by Beijing.
The U.S. auto industry, along with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, has called for restrictions on Chinese auto parts. Earlier this year, the United Steelworkers union and other groups began calling on the Obama administration to file a case with the WTO, or launch a Commerce Department investigation aimed at curtailing what it characterized as a flood of cheap Chinese auto parts.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s general counsel Tim Reif said, “We are looking at a variety of issues in the bilateral relationship, including, I would say, in the auto sector.”
In a letter to the Obama administration, 188 members of Congress accused Beijing of employing a “vast array of policies” that artificially reduce the price of Chinese auto parts and give producers in that country an unfair trade advantage that is harming U.S. producers which account for about three quarters of the jobs in the automotive sector.
When asked by reporters about the requests from the Steelworkers union and Congressional members, Reif said, “As we look at these matters, we cannot talk a lot about them, but we are certainly looking at that. We are looking at matters that involve automobiles as well.”
He was also careful to mention that any actions taken by the U.S. Trade Representative would be the result of a “careful examination of the facts” and not political pressure brought on by the upcoming presidential election.
“As you know,” said Reif, “these cases involve easily months, oftentimes years of preparation. So when you see us file a request for (WTO) consultations, that is not something we ginned up in the last week or two, or month or two.”