President Obama said Jan. 24 he would step up pressure on China and other countries that unfairly subsidize exports and ship pirated goods to the United States.
In an ambitious push to rebuild the U.S. manufacturing sector, Obama said his administration would launch a new unit dedicated to stopping unfair trade practices by rival economies.
"I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by the rules," Obama said in his annual State of the Union address.
"It's not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated," he said. "It's not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're heavily subsidized."
Obama told Congress he would establish a new Trade Enforcement Unit "charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China."
"There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders," he added.
The threat of a tougher crackdown on unfair trade came as part of a new White House push to shore up American manufacturing and create jobs in the country.
Obama said his administration had already stepped up trade actions China and other countries to protect U.S. goods producers.
In recent months the administration has launched investigations or sought to implement protective tariffs on wind towers, solar cells, a wide range of steel products, garlic and other goods from China.
Meanwhile the government has attacked Chinese barriers to U.S. exports like luxury cars and chicken meat.
"Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires," the president said.
But Obama said more was needed to rebuild the country's manufacturing sector, which employs just 9% of the workforce.
"We can't bring back every job that's left our shores. But right now, it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China," he said. "Meanwhile, America is more productive. We have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it."
He called on Congress to "make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia.
"Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you -- America will always win."
John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, said they welcomed Obama's focus on trade relations with China.
"USCBC has long advocated a well-coordinated interagency approach to the commercial relationship with China, directed out of the White House," he said in a statement. "We look forward to hearing more details about how this new initiative will be structured."
But he criticized Obama's claim of benefits for the country by restricting imports of Chinese tires.
"We disagree that the tariffs on imports of low-end Chinese tires have had any positive effect on American jobs or the American economy," he said. "All evidence suggests that the beneficiaries have been other low-end tire producers in Asia and Mexico."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
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