It has become clear that U.S.-China trade squabbles may well be a permanent fixture at the World Trade Organisation. Earlier, WTO cases saw the U.S. challenge duties that China had imposed to restrict imports on everything from steel and rare earth minerals to chicken products made in the U.S.

Most recently, the U.S. automobile industry has been caught in the crossfire, with the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announcing this week that Washington would be “challenging China’s imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on more than $3 billion in exports of American-produced automobiles”.

Specifically, Mr. Kirk’s office said in a statement, the U.S. had requested dispute settlement consultations with China at the WTO in an attempt to “eliminate these unfair duties, which appear to represent yet another abuse of trade remedies by China.”

“As we have made clear, the Obama Administration will continue to fight to ensure that China does not misuse its trade laws and violate its international trade commitments to block exports of American-made products,” Mr. Kirk said, adding that “American auto workers and manufacturers deserve a level playing field and we are taking every step necessary to stand up for them.”

Once it gains traction at the WTO, this dispute would represent the third instance of the U.S. formally complaining about alleged misuse of trade remedies by China during the Obama administration’s time in office.

This time, the fight may be particularly bitter as President Barack Obama has built some of his political capital on the back of federal bailouts offered to the auto industry giants of the U.S., including Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

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