The Tough-On-Trade Charade

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 19 2012 @ 8:00am

As the Obama administration brings its second WTO case against China since July – to which China immediately responded with its own – Mark Landler notes that Obama has progressively stepped up his aggression on trade matters:

Once in office, Mr. Obama became frustrated by what he views as China’s refusal to play by the rules, according to current and former officials. In the fall of 2009, he imposed a tariff on China over its dumping of tires into the American market. This was by far the most conspicuous of a stream of trade actions; before this year, most of the cases were fairly obscure, covering goods like flat-rolled steel and chicken broilers.

Alan Beattie cheers the suits, arguing that if both cases win, the barriers to each other's markets will be even further reduced. However, the latest WTO case comes in the wake of anti-China ads that both campaigns rolled out in the last few days to attack each other's stances. And the Chinese government took notice:

The official Chinese news agency, in an English-language commentary, attacked the GOP presidential nominee for his proposal to label China a currency manipulator. "If these mud-slinging tactics were to become U.S. government policies, a trade war would be very likely to break out between the world’s top two economies, which would be catastrophic enough to both sides and the already groaning global economy," Xinhua’s Liu Chang writes. "For generations, China-bashing has been a cancer in U.S. electoral politics, seriously plaguing the relations between the two countries."

Meanwhile, Krzysztof Pelc explains why the administration's WTO case against China's auto industry could backfire. Terry Miller makes the case that protectionism is not just counterproductive – it's destructive to jobs created by plugging into a global supply chain:

[If] the priority is to create jobs, then an obsessive focus on exports is entirely misplaced. A just-released study by The Heritage Foundation identifies more than half a million jobs—good-paying jobs in the United States—supported by imports of toys and apparel from just one country: China.