Obama talks tough on China trade in Ohio

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President Barack Obama speaks in Schiller Park on September 17, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

(CBS News) CINCINNATI, Ohio - Fifty days before the election, President Obama campaigned Monday in Ohio. And for the second time in three months, he chose this key swing state to announce he's filing an unfair trade complaint against China, saying the Chinese are driving down the cost of auto parts.

The auto industry is a major employer in Ohio.

It was the power of the incumbency at work -- Mr. Obama announcing a move he knew would be well received in a state, Ohio, that could decide the election.

The president said: "Today, my administration is launching new action against China - this one against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto parts manufacturing jobs overseas. Those are subsidies directly harm working men and women on the assembly line in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest."

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In a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization, the administration said the Chinese government has given its auto industry $1 billion in unfair subsidies that make its cars and auto parts cheaper on world markets.

It was the ninth unfair trade complaint this administration has filed against China.

For his part, Governor Romney called the president's move, too little, too late. He has been arguing for months that the president is weak on China.

On Monday, Mr. Obama disputed that, saying: "When other countries don't play by the rules, we've done something about it. We've brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two, and every case we've brought that's been decided, we won."

The formal complaint he filed against China is actually a fairly routine action. China files the same kinds of challenges against the U.S. The WTO will now likely take many months, maybe more than a year to decide.

  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.