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EU to single out Chinese imports in report on market distortions

* China report to be only EU report for now

* EU says China's economy not driven by market forces

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS, Oct 5 (Reuters) - China will be singled out for
special attention under new trade rules to limit excessively
cheap imports into the European Union, a European Commission
official said on Thursday.

The Commission, member states and EU lawmakers agreed on
Tuesday to treat all World Trade Organization members the same
in determining whether they are dumping products.

Under normal circumstances, dumping will mean selling below
domestic prices, but the EU will make exceptions for cases of
"significant market distortions", allowing investigators to
compare export prices with international benchmarks.

The Commission has said it would produce reports on major
countries where it suspects such distortions prevail. For the
time being, however, it will produce only one.

"China will come out first," said a Commission official who
requested not to be named.

"There is no clear plan to do other reports than for China.

"It is resource-intensive," the official continued, adding
that the absence of a report on a given country did not mean EU
producers could not point to distortions there.

The official did not rule out reports on other countries in
the future.

EU officials have regularly said that, despite the changes
for anti-dumping cases, China is not a market economy.

Of 32 trade investigations the Commission is carrying out,
22 feature Chinese imports.

The European Union and many of China's other trading
partners have debated whether to treat China as a "market
economy", which Beijing says was its right at the end of 2016,
some 15 years after it joined the WTO.

The EU kicked off discussions early in 2016 and held public
consultations, gathering over 5,000 opinions on how to handle
trade complaints against China.

The Commission concluded it could not retain the current
practice of considering China as a "non-market economy" and
comparing Chinese export prices with those from another country,
such as the United States.

But critics have said that Chinese businesses are subject to
excessive state intervention with artificially low domestic
prices, threatening to expose European markets to more dumping.

EU steelmakers association Eurofer, which has brought a
series of trade complaints against Chinese imports, said the new
EU agreement was important, but that it wanted to see how it
worked in practice.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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