WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is considering action against auto parts imports from China and closely examining other concerns about automobile trade with the world’s second largest economy, a top U.S. trade official said on Friday.
“We are looking at a variety of issues in the bilateral relationship, including, I would say, in the auto sector,” Tim Reif, general counsel in the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, told reporters.
Early this year as the U.S. presidential election approached, the United Steelworkers union and related groups began pressing President Barack Obama to take steps to stop what they described as a flood of auto parts imports from China.
They have asked the Obama administration to consider either filing a WTO case against alleged Chinese government subsidies or to launch a Commerce Department investigation that could lead to U.S. anti-dumping or countervailing duties on a variety of Chinese auto parts.
That was followed by a letter from 188 members of Congress, included many from Midwest industrial states like Ohio and Michigan, which are expected to be important in Obama’s bid to win re-election in November.
The lawmakers accused China of using “a vast array of policies” to give its auto parts producers an unfair trade advantage. They said it was critical the United States act quickly because auto parts manufacturers account for 75 percent of jobs in the U.S. automotive sectors.
“As we look at these matters, we can not talk a lot about them,” Reif said when asked about the status of the request. “But we are certainly looking at that. We are looking at matters that involve automobiles as well.”
Reif insisted the timing of any action on the automotive front against China would be based on a “careful examination of the facts,” and not a desire to win votes for Obama.
“As you know these cases involve easily months, oftentimes years of preparation. So when you see us file a request for consultations (at the WTO), that is not something we ginned up in the last week or two, or month or two,” Reif said.
Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Doina Chiacu