New U.S. Agency to Enforce Trade Rules With China

'The president believes that we can't wait to crack down on unfair trade violations and ensure a level playing field for American workers.'

President Obama will launch a new enforcement center on Tuesday to more aggressively challenge "unfair" trade violations, including by China, a senior official said.

Obama, who vowed to create such an entity during his State of the Union address and who faces election-year pressure to be tough on Beijing, will establish the Interagency Trade Enforcement Agency by executive order.

The center will "significantly enhance the administration's capabilities to aggressively challenge unfair trade practices around the world, including in China," a White House official said on condition of anonymity.

"The president believes that we can't wait to crack down on unfair trade violations and ensure a level playing field for American workers."

The center will gather expertise from across the administration, including trade litigators, researchers fluent in foreign languages, economic analysts and "foreign-based personnel," the official said.

ITEC will bring together information from across the government, including the intelligence community, and will reach out to workers and businesses to better detect and pursue trade violations.

The U.S. trade representative will select the director of the body while the secretary of commerce will choose a deputy, the official said.

The president is expected to sign the executive order at approximately 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

Republican White House candidates have accused Obama of being soft on Beijing and vowed to take a tougher line on China's alleged manipulation of its currency, with frontrunner Mitt Romney vowing to declare Beijing a currency manipulator, paving the way for U.S. retaliatory measures.

U.S. lawmakers have accused China of artificially undervaluing its yuan in order to boost its own exports, hurting U.S. manufacturers and hobbling the economic recovery.

During a visit earlier this month by China's Vice President Xi Jinping -- expected to become president in 2013 -- Obama tacitly referred to the economic disputes by saying all nations had to observe global "rules of the road."

"We want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system," Obama said, as Xi sat by his side ahead of their Oval Office talks.

"That includes ensuring that there is a balanced trading flow not only between the United States and China but around the world."

At a separate event during his tour, Xi expressed hope that U.S. election-year politics would not have a "regrettable impact" on ties between the world's two largest economies.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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