White House Hypocrisy And Trade Sanctions Against China

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com

Practically every car sold in the US contains Chinese-made components. But suddenly, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, the Obama administration decided to do something about it.

“We’re certainly looking at that,” Tim Reif, general counsel in the US Trade Representative’s office, told reporters, though he insisted that the election had nothing to do with it. Instead, it was all about “careful examination of the facts.” Earlier in 2012, as Republican candidates were bashing not only each other but also President Obama, the United Steelworkers union smelled an opportunity and began pushing the White House to take a stance against “a flood of auto parts from China.” A Department of Commerce investigation, resulting in anti-dumping or countervailing duties, or a WTO case against Chinese subsidies would do.

Political picante sauce: 188 lawmakers, many from swing states like Ohio where the auto industry is important, sent a letter to the White House, lambasting China for its “vast array of policies” that heaped unfair advantages on Chinese component manufacturers. And now, five months before the election, the White House is showing its dentures.

The force behind the epic migration of component manufacturing from the US to China, however, is the US auto industry itself—and Wall Street engineering.

Delphi, the former component division of GM, is Exhibit A. GM spun it off in 1999. In 2001, Delphi axed 11,500 workers. In 2004, it got tarred and feathered over its accounting practices. In 2005, six years after its IPO, it went bankrupt and closed 24 plants. In 2006, it closed another 21 plants. Meanwhile, GM was sourcing components elsewhere, particularly in China. In 2009, Delphi Automotive sold its chassis division to BeijingWest Industries, a joint venture of three government-owned companies—Shougang Corp, Bao’an Investment Development Co., and Beijing Fangshan State-Owned Asset Management Co. BeijingWest now develops and manufactures brake and chassis components for US and European automakers.

Visteon, Ford’s former component division, is Exhibit B. Ford spun it off in 2000. In 2009, nine years after its IPO, Visteon went bankrupt and shuttered numerous plants. Its center of gravity shifted to its Asia Pacific Corporate Office and Innovation Center in Shanghai. It consolidated its interior and electronics divisions into its Yanfeng joint ventures with Huayu Automotive Systems, a subsidiary of China’s largest automaker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), which is owned by the Chinese government. And the building of its North American Corporate Office in Van Buren Township, Michigan, was sold earlier this year.

Germany, whose highly successful auto industry plays a disproportionate role in its export-driven economy, has seen the same migration. The latest was Kiekert AG, the largest manufacturer of automotive door-lock systems in the world. Among its customers: GM, Ford, VW, and BMW. It has plants in Germany, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, the US, Mexico, and, since 2008, China.

As with Delphi and Visteon, financial engineering played a role. Permira, a European PE firm, acquired it in 2000 and stuffed it to the gills with debt. In 2006, the game was over. Kiekert was handed to its creditors, Bluebay Asset Management, Silver Point Capital, and Morgan Stanley. In March this year, they sold it to Lingyun Group, a subsidiary of China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), a government-owned conglomerate that manufactures motorcycles, cars, trucks, machinery, weaponry, missiles, ammo.... The Bush administration had slapped it with sanctions in 2003 for selling missile-related products to Iran.

In the US, manufacturer after manufacturer followed the routine; they invested billions in China and sent millions of jobs across the Pacific. Sure, the Chinese eagerly played along and encouraged it—not only to expand their manufacturing base but also to obtain proprietary technologies that would, if the plan works out, make it a world leader in the auto industry.

So, it’s no surprise that more and more components are manufactured in China. Outsourcing and offshoring—for a myriad of reasons—have been the primary philosophy of American manufacturing for years, and it’s hypocritical for the White House to go after the Chinese five month before the election, just to gain a few union votes in swing states.

2010 was a magical year in China: 18 million new vehicles were sold. Sales had skyrocketed 33% that year and 54% in 2009. Mind-boggling. It catapulted China to the number one new-vehicle market, far ahead of the US which had never sold that many units in a year. But now, the China auto bubble is emitting a sharp hiss. Read.... A Mixed Bag Turns Very Ugly.

And here is Marin Katusa’s superb article.... The New Cold War: with China this time, and over oil.

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overmedicatedundersexed's picture

l ceo of S&P mcgraw hill multinational co..on bloomberg this AM:" the world economy needs more trade agreements (freetrade) for the world economy to grow"

next we should ask the fox how to protect the hen house.

otherleading's picture

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akak's picture

Did you kick AnusAnonymous off the computer in the People's Liberation Opium Parlor and Internet Cafe?  Or did he just take a break to go dump a load on the nearest roadside?

rupertmja's picture

I lived, studied, and worked in Asia for 15 years and learned two Asian languages. They will rarely talk about it, but when they do confide, they think we are totally stupid. Moreover, I believe that their governments have active economic policies to do just what they are doing and that these policies do more to threaten the sleeping west than any nuke.

rupertmja's picture

I lived, studied, and worked in Asia for 15 years and learned two Asian languages. They will rarely talk about it, but when they do confide, they think we are totally stupid. Moreover, I believe that their governments have active economic policies to do just what they are doing and that these policies do more to threaten and harm the sleeping west than any nuke.

headless blogger's picture

I'm still trying to understand the point these corporations thought they were making when they moved everything to China. Sure, they got lower taxes and paid lower wages; could pollute with no consequences and abuse the workers without remorse. But did they ever have a long-term plan, and if so what was it? Did they really think they were going to install their corpos into key countries and gain access and control of their governments? Or was it all just short term, paid for inadvertently by the U.S. taxpayers, and a temporary situation while they wait for the U.S. workers to finally see the wisdom of making $1.00 and hour?

Or maybe they really thought the Chinese were going to continue laying out the red carpet for them indefinitely, and they were all going to move themselves and their families to China (like Jim Rogers) and live happily ever after?

I guess they didn't think that the Chinese might be smart, and might have a long-term plan for using all the information and technology they have had the good fortune of gleaning from U.S. corporations (as well as being very nationalist). Chinese must be rolling on the floor laughing, like they did when Geithner was over there telling them their Dollar assets were "safe".




silverdragon's picture

There is still one area where the US makes the best stuff.

The US make great military kit, it still doesn't sell most of the good kit even to its closest alies.  Maybe its time to sell the allies the best kit.

SgtShaftoe's picture

Please read "sorrows of empire". By chalmers Johnson. We do make weapons, and btw we're shoving them down everyone's throat. That is part of the problem.

monad's picture

Lawyers are disproportionally represented in our government. We need to start cleaning house there. 

topshelfstuff's picture

Hugo Salinas Price, is brilliant, and has given many countries the right move to make. But it might be China to do it first. All these articles are great reads, and certainly worth the time.

[[[ BTW, isn't anyone going to wriye about Hong Kong taking over the LME? ]]]




Video: Hugo Salinas Price proposes a silver coin for Greece



Silver, liquid and illiquid, the 'modified open mint' and gold & silver as parallel monetary systems

Hugo Salinas Price

Contents: Brief history of silver coinage in the US, 1792 to the present.


Dorothy's silver shoes or the re-monetization of the silver currency of the United States of America



Free coinage of gold and silver - then and now

Hugo Salinas Price

The restoration of gold money is gigantic counter-revolution in monetary affairs. While we wait for this event, the monetization of the silver ounce is something that favors humanity and that can be carried out without upsetting the world’s numeric monetary system... more>>


Silver money for China

Hugo Salinas Price


The determination of the monetary value of the 1/10 oz coin in Yuan

Today, November 24, 2010, the exchange rate for the Chinese Yuan is 6.6489 Yuan per dollar, and silver is traded at $27.59 oz.

At these values, the value of silver bullion per ounce, in Yuan, is 6.6489 x $27.59 = 183.44 Yuan per ounce.

The value of silver in a 1/10 coin would be 183.44 / 10 = 18.34 Yuan.

Add to 18.34 Yuan, the cost of minting, which we shall estimate at 10 cents per coin = .67 Yuan for minting costs. Then 18.34 + .67 = 19.01 Yuan.


Saving these coins will amount to voluntary austerity for the Chinese. Saving is the postponement of consumption. Voluntary austerity is always more effective and sounder from an economic point of view than the forced savings beloved of Statists, who have dictated taxes and scarcity for consumer goods so that the Statists can build factories.

The monetization of a silver coin will be a free-market decision that prompts people to save, spontaneously, of their own accord, and which does not require raising interest rates to draw the people’s money out of the economy into savings.

When the Chinese begin to withdraw silver from the world markets, in order to supply the vast appetite for silver savings of the Chinese, the price of silver will climb to unsuspected heights. We can easily visualize a price four times higher than the present high price: $100 Dollars an ounce.

At 100 Yuan per 1/10 oz. – the initial price calculated above, times four – the Chinese Central Bank would be withdrawing about 32 billion Yuan from circulation with each 1,000 tonnes of monetized silver coin placed in the hands of the Chinese people.

Silver is sold on the world markets, for dollars. At $100 dollars/oz., the Central Bank would be able to transform part of its vast dollar and euro reserves into silver at $3,125,100 dollars per tonne. One thousand tonnes would require $3.1 billion dollars. A drop in the bucket as far as Chinese C.B. reserves are concerned, but every little bit helps, considering that Chinese reserves are not actually worth a Chinese firecracker and that sooner or later, China will have to take a gigantic bath when this fact is recognized.

What about the impact of $100 silver on the price of gold?

We think that the ratios of the past and of the present will disappear. Gold will not necessarily rise four times in price, to retain the same ratio with silver, at its new price of $100 dollars / oz. The silver ratio to gold has been as high as 100 to 1, and lately has been around 50 to 1. The silver ratio to gold can continue to fall towards the old ratio of 16 to 1. If China persists in purchasing world silver, the price of silver might far exceed $100 dollars per ounce and become increasingly effective in stemming inflation as higher prices for the silver coin draw off greater amounts of paper money from the economy.

Quite apart from the effect of sopping up quantities of Yuan at present in circulation in China, monetizing the silver coin for the use of Chinese in their savings would have a salutary effect upon society in China.

Silver as money gets masses of people to think, not of the present, but of the future, and to focus on their long-term objectives as they accumulate savings in real money. It has a binding effect upon society.




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In today’s world, is it possible to think of silver money returning to circulation in America? The answer is “Yes”! But, it must be done by a new method. This new method will operate gradually by introducing silver money into circulation in parallel with the present monetary system...... more>>


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In this article we discuss the relationship between loss of the gold standard and the present financial chaos, which is accompanied by severe “structural imbalances” between the historically dominant industrial powers and their new rivals in Asia.... more>>

DoolieDoink's picture

All underwear sold in US is off Chinese origin, so if the Chinese decide to counter US protectionism with an underwear trade embargo,the US would be seriosly exposed !

Vendetta's picture

as opposed to american workers shitting in their chinese made underwear from no jobs?

WmMcK's picture

I only buy non-Chinese pima cotton shorts. Does that make me a terrorist? Black helicopter coming, I hope it's Ben ...

geekgrrl's picture

I'm not sure this bluster is so much hypocritical as it is theatrical. Gotta convince the union folk that politicians are "saving" their jobs. I tend to agree with Wolf that this is more about the election than anything to do with trade.

The real trade deal was the one negotiated in secret, out of the public eye, the Trans Pacific Pact.

DeadFred's picture

In my experience the Chinese have little tolerance for other people's bluster that makes them look bad. If they feel it is unfair they will react.

geekgrrl's picture

If by react, you mean release a strongly-worded and perhaps threatening statement, I'll fully agree with that. But I get the distinct impression all these public statements are just a distraction to keep the focus off the real trade arrangements. You know, the ones that get around those pesky sovereignty problems.

Obama fully supports the offshoring of US jobs to China; this is all just a political ploy to gather votes in swing states. I can't imagine how it could possibly be construed otherwise. He has absolutely no intention of imposing tariffs, or closing any US market. In that sense, I understand how Wolf could view unfair trade allegations as hypocritical, and he's right. China didn't put a gun to the head of American businesses. They chose to move operations to China, solely on the basis of increased short-term profits. My only complaint is that they were then permitted to remain US citizens. In my opinion, they're traitors and should be stripped of citizenship and sent to China to tend their factories. My only solace is in knowing that in China, capital is like the Hotel California, it can check out, but it can never leave. Those US businesses are going to lose all their capital and intellectual property, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving crowd. 

fajensen's picture

Obama is the more effective evil. He will find that Middle Ground(tm) that - somehow - provides the worst outcome for everyone except the 0.01%.

geekgrrl's picture

Sigh. Yes, I know. It's a tragedy. He is a great con artist, I will give him that.

AnAnonymous's picture

Obama fully supports the offshoring of US jobs to China;


Obama is your typical US citizen president. He is a proponent of US citizenism, US citizen economics.

Why another expectation? US citizen economics lead to outsourcing of activity.

It is the way it works.

Are US citizens living in the US of A expecting their president to a poor 'American' or do they wish to be governed by a parangon of 'Americanism'?

Do your pick because blaming a president of the US for being a proper US citizen is somehow difficult to seize.

Save when you remember that US citizens are US citizens and their nature is eternal.

css1971's picture

“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”

I read this somewhere.

WmMcK's picture

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
Carpe diem or something like that.

JustACitizen's picture

Wouldn't it be great if we and all of our friends and relatives discovered our "inner grandparents"? Y'know - the folks that made it through the last great depression: Live frugally, do business with your friends, try to support your own country's products and always pay your own way.

The buy cheap-live well bullshit - along with a short term results fetish and "greed is good" has brought us to this pass. Our crummy  politicians are a reflection of our short-sightedness and willingness to accept the lies that soothe us - this is true of both sides (so just stuff it all of you fans and apologists). We are a culture adrift.

It is funny - but even the "churches have been captured". Our so-called spiritual leaders should be f-----g ashamed of themselves! We are the richest country in the world but we are barren and empty.

Wouldn't living with one less laptop/TV/Ipad/Iphone be worth it?

AnAnonymous's picture

do business with your friends,


Isnt it what US citizens call crony capitalism?

Heroic Couplet's picture

I saw a great book: The US is China's Bitch.

covert's picture

the cinises are ambitious and the americans are envious and so will be slaves to the chinese and rightfully so.


New American Revolution's picture

It's called currency manipulation.   The Chinese do it in order to cut our legs out from underneath us, run up a surplus in trade, then use those dollars and euro's to come back and buy the businesses they destroyed.    They did that in 1994, and Clinton, Bush Lite, and Obama chose to do nothing about it.    It's ok under the World Trade Organization to which Congress has granted authority over it's constitutional power to control commerce, and is performed by China only by the enslavement of entire segments of its population.    It is a strategy not deployed by the Russians, who chose to take America head on and lost.   This is the gentle, oriental way, and it is a rousing success.

silverdragon's picture

US is broken and can not be fixed.

Move on.

It is time for Americans to do what the citizens of the word have done in times of economic hardship and this is travel to better employment opportuntities.

Grow a pair, admit failure and move on. There are many countries that have great employment opportunties.

Does any nation travel less?

Dugald's picture

Through poor judgement and greed you shot yourselves in both feet.....but have you gained any wisdom from  this.......ah hay ma doots!

williambanzai7's picture

What is puzzling is how the shitbakers who created this giant pretzel seem baffled that the old rules no longer apply when it comes to mass behavior. People aren't running to spend money they don't have because in the long run they know it won't create jobs for them.

Ghordius's picture

right after 9/11 Bush II painted a picture of The American Consumer having a Duty to the Nation (and herself) to go out and shop.

humans behave more herdlike in times of stress, and The American Consumer Herd did what was Needed.

what I want to say is that it's astonishing how much effort a leader in times of stress can rally.

Dugald's picture

A friend sorting stuff with his local bank manager, was astonished when told that he was iresponsible in not having any debt....On departing he said that he too was astonished in that he had a fuckwit for a local manger.

smb12321's picture

This is nothing new.  Government have ALWAYS encouraged its citizens to start spending in crises.  Of course they should have been saving more all along and much of the crisis would have been averted but that's old news. FDR told folks to buy bonds, Clinton said Buy American, Bush...., Obama is the worst going so far as to dole out hundreds of billions to folks so that they can then run out and buy something they can't afford.

Ghordius's picture

??? are you sure? governments in time of crisis to encourage the citizens to donate, or save, or buy government bonds, or consume less, yes, as last time seen in the US with Nixon and his price controls. Or before in WWII with all the rationings.

but consume more? I don't think you understand how radical that rally cry was. And how powerful, completely messing up the values compass of a whole nation.

Pike Bishop's picture

Really. Don't worry,"Go to the mall" were the exact words.

With the Fed passing out the cheap money, we went "to the malls" with a vengeance, and then graduated to Housing. By 2004, I'm looking at the Fed Flow of Funds Report and going "Holy Shit!". Households had, historically based, too much debt, and proceeded to make it even worse for s full 3 more years. Meanwhile,  the idiotic government is running two wars, guaranteeing obscene drug prices in Medicare, and funds it with tax cuts.

The, then, Sec of the Treasury gets fired because he dares to opine to the WH and Congress, that to run wars, Nations have to raise taxes. Surrounding historians also note that just about every Empire which has collapsed from within, does so by having excess Empirical military ambitions and a looted Treasury.

The Financial Industry, never one to miss an opportunity, goes apeshit. First running up earnings on all of the consumer action, which followed with incredible balance sheets. (which assets we would later find were mostly dogshit and landfill.) The Financials go from ~7% of S&P market cap 2001, to ~27% in 2007.

If we want to find some Wisdom, post-WWII would be a great place to look.

The US was financially a total shithole. Largest debt ever, unemployed men fro the Wars, and a large bill waiting to convert US production from a War economy to a normal economy.

Truman and Eisenhower didn't fuck around. they taxed the livin' shit out of everything that crawled, walked, or flew.

BUT THEY POUNDED THE MONEY BACK INTO VALUE CREATING SPENDING. Not useless crony bullshit, and $quadrillion notional value CDS sidebets.

Education for returning vets (college degrees would go from 6% of the Nation, to over 20%). Infra-structure, including the entire National Highway system. Cheap-ass loans to businesses, so they could get back to their business. Including cheap-ass funding to build the Levitowns and concrete slab small homes in every Tier-1 and Tier-2 metro area in the US. 100s of thousands of companies would be created during and after the Gov't Spendathon. Unions would abound and not harm value creation, but better distribute it (until they became the crook-ridden pieces of shit they would morph into the late '60s.)

While The Greatest Generation was Booming out their babies, they were also carrying forward the behaviors they had learned. As young children, they had grown-up in the Depression. This was followed by their young adult years in the deprivation of the war economy of WWII.

Most couldn't spend, so they preserved and saved. These traits were just assumed, and garish consumption eschewed. Why? Because these values permeated the culture. top to bottom. The country had been united in purpose during the war.

Another nice-to-have was the War Bond mentality. War Bonds and their maturities would become US Savings Bonds. 100s of millions of national debt would be held by Americans themselves. This doesn't seem like much, until you realize the $5-10 US Savings Bonds which kids got for Christmas, at full maturity would be close to $100-200 today.

Keep in mind that Japan is a piece of shit, only because they had/have a crook-crony mergered Politcal-Financial Oligarchy. And at every step have refused to confess their bad assets, and write them down. Which has let shit linger in their capital system, and fuckin' Politicians, Bankers and CEOs who couldn't run a Kool-Aid stand, let alone a Financial System or Corporation.

The only reason they can run their Ponzi scheme with debt 240% of GDP, is because nearly a majority of the debt, is held personally by the citizens of Japan.

My conclusion is that such investing has a net softening and safening effect. But only maximizes the situation when sumbag TPTB use it to CREATE REAL VALUE.

Since we're a global economy now, I think we should have a new World War, particularly in the US.

A War "Against Being the Festering, Disgusting Shithole We have Become".

Someday too late, we're going to realize that trashing the Middle Class for a few's advantage is a bad fucking idea.

Thousands of years ago, farmers figured out.. if you eat the seed corn, you're irrevocably fucked next year.

falak pema's picture

you may have a brilliant idea there: the USA should export giant pretzels to China. If GBW loved them why shouldn't those Chinese party shills, who owe so much to his diligence for making corporate america go outsourcing sauced bigtime, not buy this very american bakery marvel for themselves, to balance the trade imbalance; to feed their wives, their surrogate humpity secretaries, their 24/24 Foxonn conned-workers, and their dogs or whatever they cook in their duck soup!

WmMcK's picture

Firefly: I suggest that we give him ten years in Leavenworth, or eleven years in Twelveworth.
Chicolini: I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll take five and ten in Woolworth.

falak pema's picture

This article hits on a huge strategic issue here :The New Cold War: with China this time, and over oil

This ties in very well with the ZH post here : Guest Post: What Peak Oil? | ZeroHedge

If you analyse the cross eyes of the energy doublebarreled gun through these two articles you get a better feel for whats coming up ahead, in the interconnected global energy AND monetary domains; where China (along with all those other hungry Brics), is running head on into the US-Eurozone alliance to feed off the ME oil patch, as in Africa (remember Libya caper?). As this battle hots up, all continents will get sucked in : ME, Africa and immense <russia. As for the other continents : Canada, Mexico, South America, they will feed the already hungry economies of their own regions; there is no world EXPORT potential there, although Canada and Venezuela are currently bucking the USA, even as we write; crazy reality of this uber-alles dog fight. The main longer term EXPORT potential for liquid cheap oil and liquified or pipelined gas REMAINS ME/Russia/Africa, notably an unchartered west Africa (offshore Angola etc.). SO thats where the battle will hotten up. Until/unless, we hit alternative energy resources trail bigtime...crucial opportunity lost since 1981! Climbing back on this wagon will be a huge and painful challenge...

The rising price of energy is a killer for world trade and growth, where population trend suffocates all predictions, all the while feeding hope for world growth; the irony of our crazy, current paradigm. We need urgently a new energy and consequently a new monetary paradigm, to stabilise the world; obviously at the expense of the energy guzzler and fiat pump "funny money" economies of the world...aka US/Euro zone. The writing is all over the  coming depression wall of the first world. 

AnAnonymous's picture

The force behind the epic migration of component manufacturing from the US to China, however, is the US auto industry itself—and Wall Street engineering.


No. The force behind the migration is US citizen economics.

When looking at the US of A, one can see that the very same phenomenum has been happening within the US of A.

Activity has been moved around.

It does not stop at cities borders, it does not stop at counties borders, it does not stop at states borders.

The question is on what ground it should stop on national borders.

But hey, more running away from US citizens.

mjk0259's picture

Sounds like you were fed a lot of high quality Chinese food.

AnAnonymous's picture

Chinese cooking is with Italian cooking the best cooking in the world.

Chao cooking yum yum

akak's picture

AnusAnonymous gibbered:

Chinese cooking is with Italian cooking the best cooking in the world.

Chao cooking yum yum

Would you be referring perhaps to the style of Chinese cooking that indulges the craving of those hungry for puppy steaks and kitten McNuggets?  Or maybe the style in which human fetus soup is all the rage?  Or would it be the style that slakes the appetite of those hungry for cobra bile, the saliva-derived nests of certain rare birds, the penises of bears, or the fins of endangered sharks?  Please, do tell.

Chinese Citizenism citizens:  blobbing-up every possible rare and endangered animal part for their depraved culinary lusts since (at least) 243 BC. 

Now go suck a 1000 year-old egg --- which, disgusting as they are, probably smell much better than most shat-up Chinese roadsides.

css1971's picture

boring dull bland  boring.  The best cooking in the world is Indian, Persian has to come pretty close though.