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CINCINNATI : President Barack Obama announced a new trade enforcement action against China on Monday, pushing back against Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s charges that he has ignored trade violations by the Asian nation.
Campaigning in the key battleground state of Ohio, Obama announced a new challenge with the World Trade Organization, saying the subsidies have cost thousands of jobs at auto and auto parts companies.
Ohio and about six other states are likely to determine the outcome of the November election. The president is not chosen by the nationwide popular vote but by the outcome of state-by-state races. The so-called swing states do not predictably back either the Republican or Democratic parties and hold outsized power in the election. Both candidates have been visiting them repeatedly.
Polls show Obama with an edge in Ohio, based in part on his decision early in his presidency to use a massive injection of federal money to save the collapsing auto industry. China’s trade policies are blamed by many for harming the industry.
Obama and Romney have both pushed China — and the economy, the top issue for voters — to the forefront as they seek to refocus their campaigns after a week dominated by foreign policy and the protests at US embassies across the Arab and Islamic world.
Obama’s move comes after Romney ramped up charges that Obama lets the Chinese get away with widespread trade cheating.
But at a rally in Cincinnati, Obama said all Romney’s done is ‘send them our jobs.’ He says Romney’s firm, Bain Capital, champions outsourcing, and his tax policies favor overseas production.
Meanwhile, Romney staffers announced plans to place a greater emphasis on policy details that distinguish him from Obama to stop the incumbent’s election momentum.
Romney’s shift comes as Republicans worry about the state of their nominee’s campaign and press him to give voters a clearer sense of how he would govern. In newly published polls, Romney has lost the edge he held over Obama as the candidate better able to handle the federal budget deficit and taxes.
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse attributed Obama’s gains to the bump the president received overall after the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina this month. But on taxes, Newhouse acknowledged Romney’s need to do more to distinguish his plans.
‘I’m not sure that voters really understand the differences between the plans Mitt Romney has and Obama has,’ Newhouse said. ‘And I think that’s one thing we’re committed to trying to do in moving forward is defining the differences between the two candidates on taxes.’
The WTO confirmed Monday that the US had filed the dispute over what the US said were China’s subsidies for auto and auto parts exports. The US says the practice puts American parts manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage and encourages the outsourcing of production to China.
In response, China on Monday said it filed a WTO case challenging US anti-dumping measures against a wide range of Chinese goods including kitchen appliances, magnets and paper.
In a statement Monday in response to the U.S.-filed case, Romney accused Obama of ignoring China for too long. ‘President Obama’s credibility on this issue has long since vanished,’ he said.
Jobs in the US auto parts sector dropped by roughly half between 2001 and 2010, while US imports of auto parts from China have increased seven-fold, according to the Obama administration.
The administration also escalated another case it brought against China at the WTO in July that accuses China of imposing unfair duties on more than $3 billion in exports of US autos.
The cases stem from the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center that Obama set up earlier this year to target unfair practices around the world, particularly in China.
Obama and Romney are both embarking on a week heavy with travel through battleground states while reaching out to groups that could determine the election, from working-class white voters in states like Ohio and Wisconsin to Latino voters in Florida.
After Ohio on Monday, Obama was raising campaign cash in New York on Tuesday, followed by events in Florida on Thursday, Virginia on Friday and Wisconsin on Saturday — all states he carried in the 2008 election. Obama was making his first trip to Wisconsin in months and his most pronounced pitch to voters there since Romney named Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Wisconsin has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and is considered one of Romney’s most enticing electoral targets.
Romney’s itinerary includes fundraising stops in the Los Angeles area on Monday and outreach to key Latino voters, including an address to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and an interview with Spanish-language television network Telemundo.
Romney was also expected to hold fundraising events in Utah and Texas before heading to Florida for fundraisers later in the week.