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China's Xi Jinping Photo: Pool photo / AP

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has announced that the Commerce Department today "self-initiated" antidumping and countervailing duty investigations of aluminum imports from China, which Ross claims have been dumped and subsidized to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers, CNBC reported.

Why it matters: China and some US free traders will scream "trade war," but self-initiated AD/CVD cases, while rare, are still permitted (and governed) by World Trade Organization rules, and Ross promised them back in his confirmation hearings. So this move is far less controversial than the investigations into steel and aluminum imports earlier this year which were initiated on national security grounds. The Trump administration will nevertheless hold these investigations up as a fulfillment of Trump's "America First" promises to crack down on unfair trade, and China's complaints will probably help their public case.

Why "self-initiated" matters: Most of the time, these cases are adjudicated by the U.S. government following a U.S. industry petition claiming injury from a foreign nation's subsidies or a private company's dumping. By self-initiating, the U.S. will play both plaintiff and judge. This will understandably set off diplomatic and geopolitical alarms, but the cases will still follow standard procedures under U.S. law and WTO rules.

What's next: This kicks off a year-long process of fact-finding on Chinese dumping/subsidization and "material injury" to U.S. manufacturers. If the U.S. finds that Chinese companies have been selling dumped (sold at prices below fair value) or subsidized imports that have hurt the U.S. aluminum industry, the U.S. will impose duties on those imports.

Go deeper: Back in July, Mike Allen reported that Trump was reigning in his tariff temptation.

Go deeper

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.