New U.S. unit reviewing trade barriers in at least six nations
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's new trade enforcement unit is initially focusing on obstacles to U.S. exports in at least six countries, including Chinese industrial policies believed to violate world trade rules, a top U.S. trade official said on Monday.
"We're looking at problems in at least a half-dozen countries, and that number is going to grow. We've got problems around the world," Tim Reif, general counsel in the U.S. Trade Representative's office, said in a speech.
"At the same time, obviously, China presents a special challenge," Reif said.
Obama, who is in a tough race for reelection against Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, created the trade enforcement unit this year to make sure other countries live up to international trade obligations.
It draws on resources from throughout the federal government to bolster trade enforcement efforts led by Reif in the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
Romney has accused Obama of not being tough enough on China and has promised to use the threat of sanctions to get Beijing to change its trade practices.
The administration could file one or more new trade cases at the World Trade Organization before the November election, Reif told reporters after the speech, but he declined to discuss specific countries or issues.
Two factors that the administration considers in deciding whether to file a case is the economic cost of a particular problem and the precedent the ruling would set, he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Continued...