Friday, August 8, 2014

China gets slapped by the WTO on rare earth minerals, and the steelworkers are happy

Rare earth. 
The World Trade Organization cracked down on China's export restrictions on rare earth minerals,tungsten, and molybdenum. They are essential to making energy-efficient lighting, wind turbines, batteries and auto parts.

Our brothers and sisters at the United Steelworkers have lost jobs and wages because of China's trade policies on rare earth minerals.

Three hundred steelworkers lost their jobs when China forced the only U.S. rare earth mine and refinery to close in Mountain Pass, Calif. The mine has since reopened, but China has forced many other companies to leave the U.S. because of its rare earth policies. China's export quotas forced companies like General Motors to shut down a U.S. facility working on miniaturized magnets and move its entire staff to China.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, issued a statement yesterday praising U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for bringing the case against China to the WTO. He called it a big win and some consolation to the U.S. workers who lost their jobs because of China's predatory trade policies. But he said the journey to get fairer trade with China may never be over.

Said Gerard,
Ambassador Froman, the General Counsel and everyone else at USTR who has been involved in this case from the start have our thanks. They’ve been diligent, aggressive and effective in the fight against these and so many other Chinese unfair trade barriers. It’s an endless fight... 
This is the second time that China has been found guilty with its imposition of export restraints. Today, China applies export restraints on 346 items.   But, restraints on only 103 of these products were permitted by the terms of China’s accession agreement.  U.S. negotiators never should have sanctioned Chinese protectionism in this area, or many others...
Chinese leaders and Chinese companies game the system.    China knows that it often takes years to bring them to the WTO and work through the cumbersome process.   During that time, they continue to reap the benefits of their illegal acts.   The rule of law is simply not respected by China’s leaders.   That’s true for human rights, religious freedom, intellectual property protection, commercial law and all across the board. 
Enforcement is the key to ensuring that the benefits of trade actually reach American workers.   But, that usually means we have been hurt.  To prevent it from the start, the most important step is to require that we only engage in trade negotiations with countries that respect the rule of law and that the agreements themselves actually contain rules that will advance American interests.   Existing trade agreements and those being negotiated fail to measure up to these requirements.