By Jeff Mason
CINCINNATI (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama had a message for Republican rival Mitt Romney on Monday about dealing with China: walk the walk, don't just talk the talk.
The Democratic incumbent and the former Massachusetts governor have sparred for months over their respective polices on China, the United States' biggest lender and a popular punching bag during presidential campaigns.
Romney accuses Obama of being too soft on Beijing over its currency and trade practices. Obama, whose administration launched a World Trade Organization case against China on Monday for what it called illegal auto and auto-parts subsidies, says Romney's words do not match his actions.
"He made money investing in companies that uprooted from here and went to China ... Now you can't stand up to China when all you've done is sent them our jobs," Obama told a crowd of some 4,500.
"You can talk a good game, but I like to walk the walk, not just talk the talk," Obama said to cheers from the crowd.
Obama's campaign has repeatedly knocked Romney's past as a private equity executive, saying his record was one of outsourcing and destroying manufacturing jobs.
Romney's campaign disputes that and said Obama's action on Monday, which he announced in the battleground state of Ohio where the auto industry is critical, was "too little, too late."
"President Obama's credibility on this issue has long since vanished. 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 a statement.
"From Day One, I will pursue a comprehensive strategy to confront China's unfair trade practices and ensure a level playing field where our businesses can compete and win."
Ohio is an electoral prize that both candidates are focusing on for the November 6 election. Obama is running slightly ahead of the Romney in the polls and has visited the state 12 times this year, according to his campaign.
Early voting in the state begins on October 2, and the Obama team is eager to get its supporters to the polls early.
Ohio is a historical swing state that has supported Republicans and Democrats in previous presidential elections. Obama won the state in 2008, beating Republican John McCain in the cities of Cincinnati and Columbus, where he held rallies on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)