U.S., EU Act against China on Raw Material Exports

Susan Cornwell and Darren Ennis report for Reuters:

The United States and European Union took action against China on Tuesday for restricting of industrial raw materials, intensifying a trade struggle at a delicate time for the global economy.

In the United States the decision to bring the dispute before the World Trade Organization was seen as part of a more muscular trade policy promised by the Obama administration, but it added to tensions at a time when Washington counts on Beijing to keep buying its debt.

Europe and the United States had earlier failed to persuade resource-hungry China to reduce its export tariffs and raise quotas on materials like bauxite, coke and manganese that are used in steel, microchips, planes and other products.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on growing protectionism in China:

Risking the ire of the United States and other trading partners, the Chinese government has quietly started adopting policies aimed at encouraging exports while curbing imports, even though China, as one of the world’s largest exporters, has aggressively criticized protectionism in other countries.

The government has sharply expanded three programs to help exporters, giving them larger tax rebates, more generous loans from state-owned banks to finance trade, and more government-paid travel to promote themselves at trade shows around the world.

At the same time, Beijing has banned all local, provincial and national government agencies from buying imported goods except in cases where no local substitute exists.

The rule, issued as part of the country’s economic stimulus plan and enforcing a seldom honored Chinese law from 2003 favoring domestic suppliers, exploits China’s failure so far to sign a global agreement barring protectionism in government procurement.