WTO to rule on US' anti-subsidy duties on Chinese imports
The World Trade Organisation will decide whether American anti-subsidy duties affecting US$7.3 billion of Chinese products, such as solar panels, wind towers and steel wire, violate global commerce rules.
The Geneva-based trade arbiter agreed on Friday to set up a panel of judges to investigate China's allegation that the United States acted "inconsistently with WTO rules and rulings in many aspects" during probes to determine whether Chinese companies received illegal government aid.
The two governments have stepped up WTO complaints and rhetoric over access to each other's markets this year as the global economic crisis crimps trade.
Cracking down on China has emerged as a key campaign issue in the US presidential race, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney blaming President Barack Obama for the loss of US manufacturing jobs and criticising him for not declaring China a currency manipulator.
Obama has said his administration has lodged trade complaints against China at almost twice the rate of his Republican predecessor, George W Bush.
China lodged its complaint on May 25, just eight days after the US Commerce Department imposed duties of as much as 250 per cent on Chinese solar imports, siding with companies including SolarWorld that said the goods were sold below the cost of production, a practice known as dumping.
The US Commerce Department also made a preliminary finding in March that China illegally subsidises exporters of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and solar panels. The US applied tariffs on Chinese producers and exporters including Suntech Power Holdings and Trina Solar.
China's complaint against the US follows its victory in March last year against American anti-dumping and anti-subsidy levies on imports of Chinese steel pipes, pneumatic off-road tyres and woven sacks. WTO appeal judges ruled then that the US Commerce Department wrongly labelled state-owned suppliers of goods to the Chinese producers hit by the duties as public bodies.