Models pose with the latest Jeep at the Auto China 2012 exhibition in April.… (AFP / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. has filed an international trade complaint against China for new duties it placed on many large American-made vehicles, the Obama administration announced Thursday.
The duties, which range from 2% to 21.5%, are aimed at more than $3 billion in annual sales of cars and sport utility vehicles exported into China. The duties were slapped on the vehicles in December and are unfair, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Thursday.
“As we have made clear, the Obama administration will continue to fight to ensure that China does not misuse its trade laws and violate its international trade commitments to block exports of American-made products,” Kirk said. “American auto workers and manufacturers deserve a level playing field and we are taking every step necessary to stand up for them."
The move escalates a nearly three-year battle over auto duties between the economic superpowers. China enacted the duties after finding in May 2011 that imported American vehicles had been sold at below fair-market value and had benefited from U.S. subsidies.
The anti-dumping and countervailing duties affect SUVs and cars with an engine capacity greater than 2.5 liters. The U.S. has challenged the Chinese findings that American automakers were dumping vehicles in that market, saying claims of harm to the Chinese auto industry were unsupported.
The complaint with the World Trade Organization requests dispute settlement consultations with China. If the U.S. and China can't resolve the dispute within 60 days, either side can request a formal WTO resolution.
Announcement of the complaint came as Obama traveled to Ohio on Thursday to kick off a two-day bus tour there and in Pennsylvania. Ohio is home to thousands of autoworkers and is a key battleground in November's presidential election.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that has urged action on the Chinese auto tariffs, said Thursday the WTO complaint was needed to level the playing field for U.S. workers.
"The auto industry is helping turn our economy around by reviving manufacturing facilities across the nation," Brown said. "But we’re at risk of this progress being undercut if we allow China to continue to cheat and break trade laws."
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