It’s been a general consensus this election cycle that the only real issue that the Republicans have to stand on is the economy. And aside from a brief, highly regrettable foray into the issue of contraception, they have mostly stuck to that one issue. In particular, the Republicans have attacked Obama for his treatment of China.
But it seems that the Republicans have now lost this one foothold as well.
Just yesterday, Obama announced that the US, along with the European Union and Japan, has filed a case against China in the WTO, citing China’s unfair export limits on rare earth minerals. The vast majority of the global supply of these minerals comes solely from China, as high as 97% in some cases. However, China has arbitrarily halted mining and shipping of these minerals in the past and has been thought to be hoarding them to control prices. These actions are a direct violation of the fair trade rules China has agreed to as a member of the WTO.
On the economic front, the change Obama is starting is a huge boon to the US. Rare earth minerals are a major component of hi-tech gadgets and machinery that is often pioneered in the United States. Making the market fairer, Obama has implied, would give “American manufacturers … access to rare earth materials” they need for production and create more jobs. Even better, rare earths are often used in green technology, such as wind turbines and hybrid cars, so the jobs being created would be both durable and environmentally-friendly.
An added bonus is that by enforcing the worldwide rules, market prices for rare earths would stabilize globally. This would lead to a surge in the research, development, and production of green technology, because companies could proceed without worrying about volatile prices. In addition, it would protect the US economy from potential economic disruption, as happened in 2010 when China suspended shipments of rare earths to Japan, increasing national security.
China has 10 days to respond to the accusations and must hold talks with the US, EU, and Japan in the coming two months.
So while the Republican candidates have been bickering amongst themselves and leading a national crusade denying women access to necessary healthcare, Obama has done what he always does: quietly and effectively target the real problems with actual solutions.
In regards to the WTO case, a White House administration official stated, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” While he was referring to the prices of China’s exports of rare earth minerals, his statement could easily transfer to Obama’s campaign, where the sun is certainly shining right now.