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Thursday, July 14, 2016, 15:40

US challenges China at WTO

By Agencies

WASHINGTON - Amid increasing anti-trade rhetoric in the current US presidential campaign, the United States has challenged China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over its export duties on nine key raw materials.

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) claimed Wednesday in a statement that these duties ranging from 5 to 20 percent ad valorem create "an uneven playing field" for US manufacturers.

The statement said the nine raw materials are antimony, cobalt, copper, graphite, lead, magnesia, talc, tantalum and tin. They are used in industrial sectors such as aerospace, automotive, electronics and chemicals.

The trade enforcement case, the 13th that the Obama administration has launched against China at the WTO, comes at a time of increasing anti-trade rhetoric in the current US presidential campaign.

In response to the US case, Zhu Haiquan, spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Washington, suggested that the US itself risked running afoul of WTO rules by bringing so many cases against China.

"Opposing protectionism in trade is a consensus of international community," he said. "China urges the United States to strictly abide by the WTO rules, and restrain from abusing of trade remedy measures."

The US administration is eager to show that it is tough on trade. Wednesday's case against China was announced hours before Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to give a speech in San Diego touting the White House's record on trade enforcement. The administration has brought 13 cases against China before the WTO.

China imposes duties of 5 percent to 20 percent on exports of nine raw materials, including cobalt, copper and graphite, used in industries ranging from aerospace to chemicals.

According to the US, China was supposed to eliminate the duties after it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 but didn't. The duties raise the costs for US manufacturers and give them an incentive to relocate to China to avoid paying them.

The 162-country WTO acts as judge in international trade disputes.

The Obama administration wants to demonstrate a tough stance on enforcing trade agreements in an attempt to draw support from lawmakers to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a top legislative priority for President Barack Obama this year.

But US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the chances are "pretty slim" that the TPP will get a vote in Congress this year, as both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are against it.

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