Trade panel finds China aluminium ‘materially injured’ US industry, allowing dumping probe to proceed

The US Department of Commerce received a judicial ruling authorising it to continue its investigation into whether aluminium alloy sheet metal from China was being dumped or unfairly subsidised, adding to worries of a worsening rift between the world’s two largest economies.

The US International Trade Commission, a bipartisan, quasi-judicial federal agency in charge of administering US trade remedy laws, determined that the US industry was “materially injured by reason of imports of common alloy aluminium sheet from China that are allegedly subsidised and sold in the United States at less than fair value,” according to a news release on Friday.

In November, the US Commerce Department launched a “self-initiated” anti-dumping investigation into Chinese aluminium alloy sheet – the first time the US had taken such an action against a trading partner since 1991.

All four ITC commissioners voted affirmatively in support of the government’s trade remedy claims and further action in its investigation.

The commerce department’s preliminary countervailing duty determinations are to be delivered around February 1, and its anti-dumping determinations around April 17, the news release said.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who launched the investigation into imports of Chinese aluminium alloy sheet, said US President Donald Trump “made it clear from day one that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated under this administration, and today we take one more step in fulfilling that promise.”

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In 2016, imports of common alloy sheet from China were valued at an estimated US$603.6 million.

The US’s action drew an expression of “strong dissatisfaction” from Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce.

In a statement, the ministry said the continuing investigation would harm US-China aluminium products trade, hurting both countries’ interests.

The ministry said it would adopt the necessary measures to safeguard Chinese firms’ legal interests.

China’s huge trade surplus with the US hit a record high last year, rising 8.6 per cent year on year to US$275.8 billion in 2017 – or about 65 per cent of China’s total global trade surplus, the Chinese General Administration of Customs said on Friday in Beijing.

The unanimous vote was applauded by the Aluminium Association, which represents US aluminium producers and worked with Commerce on the probe.

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“US companies that make common alloy aluminium sheet have suffered extensive injury thanks to unfairly traded imports from China for many years,” the group’s president, Heidi Brock, said in a statement.

But the National Marine Manufacturers Association said the decision was bad news for aluminium boat makers, a big part of a $3 billion recreational boating industry that claims to support 650,000 US jobs.

“The ruling is expected to significantly drive up the costs of aluminium used to manufacture more than 111,000 boats such as pontoons and fishing boats, which make up 43 per cent of new powerboat sales,” NMMA President Thom Dammrich said in a statement.

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Earlier this week, US aluminium products makers sought new protections against Chinese aluminium shipped through Vietnam, asking Commerce to investigate allegations that China Zhongwang Holdings Limited is circumventing US duties.

And next week, the Commerce Department is expected to send the White House the results of its investigation into whether rising aluminium imports are threatening US national security, a probe likely to provide Trump with an opportunity to levy broad tariffs or import quotas on aluminium.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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