Commentary Magazine


Topic: trade law

Note Timing on Obama’s China Crackdown

Could the timing of President Obama’s decision to crack down on China’s export restrictions be politically motivated? The president announced today that the U.S., the EU and Japan will finally challenge Beijing’s export restrictions on rare earth materials used in tech products in a case before the World Trade Organization. But some find it curious that Obama’s taking this action today, the day of a contentious GOP primary – especially because the president has seemed to schedule many of his major announcements and events on big GOP primary days.

USA Today reports:

White House officials said today it is coincidence that President Obama announced a new trade law case against China on the same day as Republican primaries in Mississippi and Alabama. …

“The president’s schedule is a complex organism,” Carney said. “This was the appropriate day to do it.” …

Last week, Obama held a news conference the same day as the Super Tuesday contests. Last month, he spoke to the United Auto Workers the same day as the GOP primary in Michigan, the nation’s car making capital.

The administration’s World Trade Organization case deals with Chinese restrictions on rare earth minerals necessary to make high-tech products.

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Could the timing of President Obama’s decision to crack down on China’s export restrictions be politically motivated? The president announced today that the U.S., the EU and Japan will finally challenge Beijing’s export restrictions on rare earth materials used in tech products in a case before the World Trade Organization. But some find it curious that Obama’s taking this action today, the day of a contentious GOP primary – especially because the president has seemed to schedule many of his major announcements and events on big GOP primary days.

USA Today reports:

White House officials said today it is coincidence that President Obama announced a new trade law case against China on the same day as Republican primaries in Mississippi and Alabama. …

“The president’s schedule is a complex organism,” Carney said. “This was the appropriate day to do it.” …

Last week, Obama held a news conference the same day as the Super Tuesday contests. Last month, he spoke to the United Auto Workers the same day as the GOP primary in Michigan, the nation’s car making capital.

The administration’s World Trade Organization case deals with Chinese restrictions on rare earth minerals necessary to make high-tech products.

Mitt Romney has slammed Obama on the campaign trail as too soft on China, calling him a “near supplicant to Beijing.” Obviously Obama’s announcement today gives him a strong rebuttal to Romney’s charges.

Not only that, it provides Obama with a valuable talking point on job creation. If the WTO case is successful – as many expect it to be – then China’s easing of export restrictions could help boost the job market in the U.S., particularly manufacturing jobs. One expert quoted by U.S. News and World Report says the election-year timing is too perfect to be a coincidence:

Chinese export restrictions are affecting the American job market, agrees Peter Morici, professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, adding that if China stops restricting its mineral exports, it could also change prices enough to affect consumer behavior in the U.S. …

Adds Morici of the election-year challenge, “The timing of this is blatantly political.”

So after years of inaction on China, Obama has finally decided to take a stand during his reelection year – and announces it on the day of a major GOP primary. What a surprise.

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