Obama sets up panel to stop unfair trade practices
AP & REUTERS
WASHINGTON PRESIDENT Barack Obama announced on Tuesday the creation of a new enforcement office to challenge what he called unfair trade practices in China and other countries around the world.
“American workers are the best workers on Earth, and when the playing field is level, I promise you, America will always win,” Obama said on Tuesday during an appearance at the United Auto Workers convention.
Obama signed an executive order earlier Tuesday establishing the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.
The White House said the office will expand the administration’s ability to challenge unfair trading practices in China and elsewhere. The new office will coordinate enforcement activity across several US government agencies.
The move comes as Obama has faced criticism from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his handling of China and the US trade deficit with the world’s second largest economy has soared to record $295.5 billion in 2011.
In addition, two new reports on Tuesday raise concerns about state-supported competition from China and call for the United States to take a variety of steps to respond.
Obama outlined his plan to create a new Interagency Trade Enforcement Unit (ITEC) in his annual State of the Union speech last month to Congress.
He took particular aim at China, which he accused of lavishing subsidies on its companies and not doing enough to stop counterfeiting of American goods.
The White House earlier this month proposed spending $26 million dollars to hire 50 to 60 new people to help crack down on unfair foreign trade practices.
The executive order to be signed on Tuesday directs US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to select a director to lead the new unit, with a deputy director chosen by US Commerce Secretary John Bryson.
“The ITEC will be supported by the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice, State and the Treasury, as well as the Intelligence Community,” a White House official said.
Romney, who has struggled recently to hold onto his frontrunner status in Republican presidential primaries, has criticized Obama for not doing more to “crack down on China for stealing jobs” and promised to get tough with China over its currency practices if elected president.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank, in a new report on Tuesday accused China of using currency manipulation, subsidies, tariffs, forced technology transfers, export restrictions, standard setting and other policies to gain an “absolute advantage” for its companies in a wide array of industries.
“While virtually all governments have crafted economic development policies to boost competitive advantage, China has developed the most comprehensive set of policies, with most of them violating the spirit, if not the letter of the law of the WTO,” the report said. “It’s time to say ‘enough is enough’.”