China/US trade and export safety dispute tension heightens
China accused the United States on Thursday of becoming increasingly protectionist, as it hit back following a wave of high-profile trade disputes and export safety scandals.
Senior officials said in a briefing in Beijing that their US counterparts were uncooperative and that the US government had broken World Trade Organisation rules while carrying out anti-dumping investigations against Chinese products. "Recently, the United States has carried out a series of measures with a distinct protectionist flavor" Deputy Commerce minister Wang Chao said, adding that "it's also fair to say that they have not given full consideration to Chinese requests for consultations." The violation of WTO regulations has come about in the process of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations launched by the US against five product categories, vice commerce minister Gao Hucheng said. "Investigations and measures undertaken by the United States will lead to double taxation," he said. "You can't do that according to WTO rules." The five categories – including items such as art paper, steel pipe and tires – have been targeted in a series of probes since November, a frequency rarely seen in contemporary global trade, Gao said. "This will directly impact 860 million dollars of exports, the activities of over 500 enterprises and the jobs of 70,000 people," he said. Gao also complained about the US this month asking the WTO to mediate a copyright trade dispute with China. The US said bilateral talks had failed to close loopholes that allowed Chinese counterfeiters to flourish. "It is with regret that we notice the US suggestion to set up an expert panel," Gao said. The WTO actions have highlighted rising concern in the United States over the ever-widening trade imbalance between the two countries. The US trade deficit with China hit 232.5 billion dollars last year, according to official US figures, fuelling complaints that cheap Chinese exports are causing job losses in the United States. Trade tensions have further heightened amid a spate of safety scandals surrounding Chinese exports to the United States and elsewhere – ranging from toys and tires to seafood, petfood and toothpaste. A commerce ministry statement released at the start of Thursday's briefing accused the US press of exaggerating the problems. "The American media have been playing up the quality and safety issues of China-made products," the statement said. China has consistently argued that less than one percent of its exports have any quality problems.