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US Challenges China’s Export Duties on Key Raw Materials at WTO

FILE - Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (R) listens to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman during a meeting in Beijing, China, June 6, 2016.

The United States has launched a new trade enforcement action against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over export duties that Beijing charges on nine raw materials, which makes them more expensive for U.S. manufacturers.

The U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement Wednesday that his office is seeking to remove China's export duties ranging from 5 to 20 percent on antimony, cobalt, copper, graphite, lead, magnesia, talc, tantalum and tin, which are used in industries ranging from aerospace to electronics and chemicals.

Such duties impose higher costs on U.S. manufacturers, while Chinese competitors do not have to pay them, which serves as a financial incentive for companies to locate production in China.

“These duties are China's attempt to game the system so that raw materials are cheaper for their manufacturers and more expensive for ours,'' Froman said.

According to the U.S., China should have eliminated the duties after it joined the WTO in 2001, but it has not.

The U.S. administration has brought 13 cases against China before the WTO.

Wednesday's case was announced hours before Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to give a speech in San Diego, highlighting the White House's record on trade enforcement.

Trading with China has been one of the themes of this year’s presidential campaign.

Republican Donald Trump has accused China of unfair trade practices, saying he will impose big taxes on Chinese imports.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has spoken out against the Obama administration's signature trade initiative - the Trans-Pacific Partnership - which is intended to expand trade with 11 Pacific Rim countries, not including China.