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Tire row may stretch squabble

China's Ministry of Commerce expressed "deep regret" at a United States trade panel ruling that Chinese tires had flooded the US market, the first step in what could be the Obama administration's first trade dispute with the country.

The International Trade Commission found that a surge of low-cost tires from China had disrupted US markets, following a complaint by the United Steelworkers union which hopes to cap Chinese tire imports at their 2005 level.

"China has repeatedly expressed its opposition to foreign governments using safeguard clauses to launch investigations of Chinese products," ministry spokesman Yao Jian said in a statement posted on its Website yesterday.

"The decision does not conform to objective facts, and also violates relevant World Trade Organization rules in addition to US law," said Yao.

Lawyers representing Chinese tire producers argue that US firms largely abandoned the low-range tire market before they moved in. They also noted that no US tire producers had backed the steelworkers' complaint.

"We hope the US will fully consider the actual situation of this case," Yao said.


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