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Obama hits Romney on China: 'I like to walk the walk, not just talk the talk'

Al Behrman / AP

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, at Seasongood Pavilion in Cincinnati.


CINCINNATI, OH - President Barack Obama touted his administration's new trade complaint against China here in swing state Ohio on Monday, characterizing GOP rival Mitt Romney’s vow to get tough on China as mere lip service.

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Obama played up his administration’s new World Trade Organization complaint, which accuses the Chinese government of illegally subsidizing its auto parts industry so as to make products more competitive in the American market. The complaint has particular resonance in states like Ohio, where the auto industry makes up a large share of the economy.

“These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest,” Obama told a crowd of 4,500 at Eden Park in Cincinnati. “It’s not right; it’s against the rules; and we will not let it stand.”

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Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has promised to take a tougher stand toward China if he were elected. That commitment, Obama argued, can’t be taken seriously given Romney’s record at Bain Capital, in which companies acquired by Bain sometimes outsourced jobs to other countries.

Obama accused Romney of having a mixed record on China, claiming that while Romney is “running around Ohio claiming he’s going to roll up his sleeves and take the fight to China,:

“Ohio, you can’t stand up to China when all you’ve done is send them our jobs,” Obama said. “You can talk a good game, but I like to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

President Obama talks about his plan to encourage jobs creation in the U.S. to a crowd of supporters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ohio, where one in every eight people has ties to the auto industry, is an ideal host for Obama’s attack on China’s auto industry practices, especially as both campaigns are vying fiercely over the state’s 18 electoral votes. Obama seemed to be widening his lead here slightly as of the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist University poll which showed him leading Romney 50 percent to 43 percent.

This was the second auto-focused WTO complaint Obama launched against China while speaking in Ohio. Back in July, he announced a citation against the country’s imposition of tariffs on American automobile imports while in Maumee, Ohio – right outside the auto-manufacturing hub of Toledo.

The Romney campaign pre-butted to Obama by releasing a statement from the candidate that new complaint was “too little, too late,” calling it a “campaign season trade case.”

“I will not wait until the last months of my presidency to stand up to China, or do so only when votes are at stake,” Romney said in the statement.

But today the White House insisted the complaint was not politically motivated.

“It's clear that this is a long and consistent part of the president's record,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said of the many WTO cases Obama has brought against China, during a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One en route to Cincinnati. He added that this trade complaint had been “months in the making.”

Obama continues his Ohio swing with a stop in Columbus later Monday afternoon.