U.S. challenges China raw material export duties in trade enforcement push

Wed Jul 13, 2016 11:20pm EDT
 
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States challenged China's export duties on nine key metals and minerals on Wednesday, arguing they violate Beijing's commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and give an unfair advantage to Chinese manufacturers.

China said it respected WTO rules and that the duties had been imposed as part of efforts at environmental protection.

The U.S. move came with the Obama administration eager to demonstrate that it is taking a tough stance on enforcing international trade agreements, which have come under fire from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and from within Obama's own Democratic party.

Vice President Joe Biden later on Wednesday was due to tout President Barack Obama's trade enforcement record as being more aggressive than past administrations in a speech at the Port of San Diego, with 22 WTO cases filed against trading partners since 2009 - including 16 aimed at China.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the raw materials case seeks to remove China's export duties of 5 percent to 20 percent on antimony, cobalt, copper, graphite, lead, various magnesia compounds, talc, tantalum and tin, which it said are key inputs into U.S. industries, including aerospace, autos, electronics and chemicals.

He said the duties impose higher costs on U.S. manufacturers, while Chinese competitors do not have to pay them, encouraging companies to locate production in China.

"These duties are China's attempt to game the system so that raw materials are cheaper for their manufacturers and more expensive for ours," Froman said in a statement.

"This scheme is directly at odds with WTO commitments China has made, and, as we've shown time and again, we will hold them accountable to their commitments."   Continued...

 
Stacks of rebar await delivery at Shanxi Zhongsheng Iron and Steel in Fenyang, Shanxi Province, China, April 28, 2016. REUTERS/John Ruwitch/File Photo