The administration received praise from Congress on Wednesday for filing two cases against China in the World Trade Organization, as Treasury Secretary Geithner prepares to take heat from two committees today over actions on Chinese currency.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office announced Wednesday it was seeking dispute settlement consultation, the precursor to the WTO forming a dispute settlement panel, with China over antidumping and countervailing duties on U.S. exports of grain-oriented flat-rolled electrical steel and discrimination against U.S. suppliers of electronic payment services.
“We are concerned that China is breaking its trade commitments to the United States and other WTO partners, both by favoring its one state-owned financial services firm to the exclusion of American credit and debit card companies and by manipulating trade-remedy investigations to unfairly restrict exports of American steel,” Trade Representative Kirk said in a statement.
The move drew bipartisan praise from congressional trade leaders who have been highly critical of the administration declining to label China a currency manipulator. Geithner will appear before the Senate Banking and House Ways and Means committees today on the subject.
“We can’t stand by while China abuses its … trade laws for protectionist purposes,” said Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley. “The administration should go one step further and bring a case against China’s unfair currency manipulation at the WTO.”
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said the complaints are “critical steps forward in our effort to enforce our market access rights in China.”
The first complaint alleges China unfairly imposed duties on the specialized steel product used in the manufacturing of transformers and reactors. A Chinese investigation found the United States dumped the products in Chinese markets at less than fair market value, which the USTR’s office alleges was a biased investigation that lacked evidence.
The second complaint alleges the People’s Bank of China allowed the domestic company China Union Pay to have what Kirk termed “a monopoly over most credit and debit card transactions,” a market it had committed to opening four years ago.
Chinese trade has become a part of the domestic manufacturing agenda House Democrats are promoting as part of an effort to highlight job creation bills.
“The Administration must continue to redouble its effort to address the range of Chinese practices which disadvantage and harm U.S. workers, farmers and businesses, that distort trade and investment flows, and which ultimately suppress U.S. growth and job creation,” Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin said in a statement.
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