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November 30, 2017

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Anger over latest anti-dumping probe by US

CHINA yesterday expressed its dissatisfaction with the latest anti-dumping investigations into its export of aluminum sheets to the United States.

“China is strongly dissatisfied with the trade protectionism tendency shown in the US move,” said Wang Hejun, head of the Ministry of Commerce’s trade remedy and investigation bureau.

On Tuesday, the US Commerce Department launched anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations into common alloy aluminum sheets in a rare “self-initiated” tactic.

The move marked the first time in 25 years that the US had launched such an investigation without a request from a US company or industry.

Chinese and US aluminum industries are complementary and aluminum trade between the two countries is two-way, Wang said. “It will hurt both Chinese and US interests to artificially impede the normal order of bilateral aluminum trade.”

When the US department set preliminary dumping margins on imports of aluminum foil from China in October, the ministry said it was “a serious distortion” of the real situation.

China urged the US to fulfill international obligations and take action to correct the wrong practice, according to a ministry statement on October 31.

“An administration that self-initiates an investigation is sending an aggressive signal that it is eager to impose import protection,” said Chad Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank.

A final decision on whether to impose punitive duties on Chinese aluminum products is still months away as self-initiated investigations follow the same process as normal trade cases.

Wang said he hoped the US would abide by the consensus reached by Chinese and US leaders on economic and trade cooperation and meet China halfway to support the healthy and stable development of bilateral economic ties.

China will take necessary measures to defend the rights of its own enterprises, he said.

The US International Trade Commission is conducting its own investigation and is due to make its preliminary determinations around January 16 next year.

If the agency determines that there is no injury or threat of injury, then the commerce department’s investigations will be terminated.

Cao Hui, a lawyer at international law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP, said the problem with self-initiated cases is that the commerce department takes on the dual roles of plaintiff and arbiter, which might lead to a lack of impartiality.

Cao believed its action was a highly political and symbolic move. The department was unlikely to self-initiate such cases against China in a large scale.

In 2016, imports of common alloy sheet from China were estimated at US$603.6 million, according to the commerce department.

The last self-initiated anti-dumping investigation was in 1985 and involved semiconductors from Japan. The last self-initiated anti-subsidy case was in 1991 against softwood lumber from Canada.

The aluminum move against China comes less than a month after US President Donald Trump’s first trip to Beijing, during which he heaped praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping and lauded US business deals with China valued at hundreds of billions of dollars.


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