Washington Daybook: China vs. DC

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

A Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) sport utility vehicle is driven off a China Shipping Group Co. car carrier ship at a Tianjin Port Group Co. dock.

The U.S. has filed another car-related complaint against China at the World Trade Organization just hours before President Barack Obama makes campaign stops in Ohio today to tout his administration’s efforts to save the U.S. automobile industry.

The U.S. contends that China’s aid amounted to at least $1 billion between 2009 and 2011 and benefited as much as 60 percent of Chinese car-parts exports. The subsidies put U.S. component manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage, which encourages the outsourcing of car-parts production to China, the U.S. says in its complaint.

Obama today is visiting Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, two critical centers of a key battleground state in the Nov. 6 election, with 54,200 residents employed by the car-parts industry and 12.4 percent of the state’s total employment related to the auto sector. Republican  Mitt Romney, who opposed the government bailout of the auto industry in 2009, has stepped up accusations that Obama is timid on China in campaign TV ads as the campaign enters its final weeks.

Romney, who speaks to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles later today, has blamed Obama for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, notes China has surpassed the U.S. in such employment and criticizes the president for not declaring China a currency manipulator.

While Obama and Romney try to outdo each other in bashing China, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is visiting Beijing this week, trying to assure Communist leaders that the U.S.’s recent pivot to focus on the Asia-Pacific is no threat to them.

Panetta is scheduled to meet Xi Jinping on Sept. 19 at the Great Hall of the People, the U.S. official told reporters on condition of anonymity because the meetings weren’t yet public. Xi’s almost two-week absence from the public eye, which ended when he spoke at an agricultural event Sept. 15, sparked speculation about his health.

The meeting with Xi, forecast to become China’s next president in a once-a-decade leadership transition this year, comes as China has questioned the motives behind the so-called rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific that the Pentagon unveiled in January. Chinese military officials writing in state media have said the U.S. wants to contain China by positioning more military assets in the region.

Get ready for the  final sprint before campaign recess. There will be just three working days for Congress this week, then the House and Senate will be out until until a lame-duck session in November. Both chambers are idle today and tomorrow for the Jewish holiday. Today, former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of Staff, and Alice Rivlin,a  former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, will participate in panel discussion at CSIS on bipartisan plans to address the budget situation.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexico Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire discuss U.S.-Mexico security relationship at Woodrow Wilson Center.


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