COUNTRIES that use anti-dumping laws against Hongkong industries will get the same treatment in return, warns Director-General of Trade Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
''Too soon they may find themselves the victim of the golden rule of trade: what you do unto others will be done unto you,'' he told a French Business Association luncheon yesterday.
He said there was a proliferation of new countries invoking anti-dumping rules, following the bad example set by the traditional ones: the United States, the European Community, Canada and Australia.
The newcomers, including Brazil, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Poland and Turkey, would eventually extend their anti-dumping measures to keep down imports from the traditional users of anti-dumping rules, he said.
The EC and US, which have imposed anti-dumping measures on Hongkong, were themselves complaining about such actions by countries importing their goods, he said.
''We understand that more [anti-dumping rule users] are in the offing,'' said Mr Tsang. ''More and more countries are using it, and often misusing it to damage free competition.'' Worldwide, there were more than 230 anti-dumping cases in 1991-92, against 70 cases in 1980-81.
Last year, a record eight cases were filed against Hongkong firms.
''Sooner or later, we will all be in the same boat and we will sink or float together,'' he charged, saying the anti-dumping climate would benefit nobody.
''This would mean more trade conflicts and retribution in the long run, probably in a different guise. They are not conducive to international trade,'' he cautioned.
The use of anti-dumping rules would reduce the international competitiveness of downstream producers using the affected products.
Mr Tsang urged that the overall economics of anti-dumping actions be carefully studied.
A number of users of anti-dumping rules, such as the European Parliament and US International Trade Commission, were starting to make this assessment, he said.
He spoke of the uncertainty that surrounds either an anti-dumping investigation or rumours of one about to be filed.
''The uncertainty created would make importers think twice before sourcing from the area under investigation,'' he said.
Anti-dumping action was especially unfair to smaller manufacturers which were unable to afford the time and expense involved in a defence, he said.
''This is ironic. The smaller the company, the less likely it is able to dump. Yet it is less able to defend itself,'' said Mr Tsang.
He said anti-dumping action had yet to have an impact on Hongkong because it was outweighed by an increase in trade.
Mr Tsang regretted that major disagreements on almost all fronts between exporting and importing countries still remained after six years of difficult negotiations in the Uruguay Round of world talks.