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Obama Administration Challenges China’s Unfair Imposition of Duties on American-Made Automobiles

07/05/2012

Washington, D.C. – United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced today that the United States is challenging China’s imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on more than $3 billion in exports of American-produced automobiles. Specifically, the United States has requested dispute settlement consultations with China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in an attempt to eliminate these unfair duties, which appear to represent yet another abuse of trade remedies by China.

“As we have made clear, the Obama Administration will continue to fight to ensure that China does not misuse its trade laws and violate its international trade commitments to block exports of American-made products,” Ambassador Kirk said. “American auto workers and manufacturers deserve a level playing field and we are taking every step necessary to stand up for them. This is the third time that the Obama Administration has challenged China’s misuse of trade remedies.”

Through this case, the United States is addressing its concerns that China’s duties on imports of American-made vehicles appear to be inconsistent with WTO rules. Consultations are the first step in a WTO dispute. Under WTO rules, if parties do not resolve a matter through consultations within 60 days, complainants may request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel.

This is the latest in a series of enforcement steps the Administration has recently taken to continue to hold China accountable for its WTO commitments. In two earlier WTO cases, the United States challenged duties that China had imposed to restrict imports of certain steel products and chicken products from the United States. The United States has also brought actions against China’s export restraints on several industrial raw materials, including rare earths, China’s restrictions on electronic payment services and subsidies to China’s wind power equipment sector. In each of these matters, the key principle at stake is that China must play by the rules to which it agreed when it joined the WTO. Those commitments include maintaining open markets on a non-discriminatory basis, and following internationally-agreed procedures in a transparent way. In addition, the United States previously invoked a China-specific safeguard to address rapidly increasing imports of Chinese passenger and light truck tires.

Background:

Shortly after President Obama decided in September 2009 to impose a safeguard measure against Chinese tire imports, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced that it would initiate antidumping and countervailing duty investigations of imports of American-made cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Then, in May 2011, China’s Ministry of Commerce issued final determinations in which it found that imports of American-made automobiles had been sold at less than fair value (i.e., “dumped”) into the Chinese market and had also benefited from subsidies. WTO rules permit imposition of duties on imports of merchandise that are found to be dumped or subsidized, if those imports cause injury to the domestic industry. However, at that time, China suspended the imposition of duties.

Subsequently, in December 2011, China began imposing both antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of American-produced automobiles. The antidumping duties range from 2.0 percent to 8.9 percent, with an “all others” rate of 21.5 percent, and the countervailing duties range from 6.2 percent to 12.9 percent, with an “all others” rate of 12.9 percent. The specific products affected by the duties are American-produced cars and SUVs with an engine capacity of 2.5 liters or larger. Last year, the United States exported more than $3 billion of these automobiles to China.

The United States believes that China initiated the investigations without sufficient evidence; failed to objectively examine the evidence; and made unsupported findings of injury to China’s domestic industry. In addition, China failed to disclose “essential facts” underlying its conclusions; failed to provide an adequate explanation of its conclusions; improperly used investigative procedures; and failed to require non-confidential summaries of Chinese company submissions.

See here for a copy of the U.S.'s request letter to the WTO.