Commerce official sees rising trend of economic disputes with other countries A trade war between the United States and China would seriously damage both nations, a Ministry of Commerce expert warned yesterday. Observers believe a trade war will break out if the US Congress passes a bill that slaps an additional 27.5 per cent tariff on Chinese imports. The bill was introduced in response to what some American politicians saw as a lack of progress in efforts to force China to revalue the yuan. 'If [the US Congress] pushed too hard, we would end up with a lose-lose proposition for all,' said Li Chenggang, a division director at the Ministry of Commerce's bureau of fair trade for imports and exports. Mr Li, speaking on the sidelines of the China International Fair for Investment and Trade, which ended yesterday, said he hoped the dispute over China's fixed exchange-rate policy could be resolved amicably. He said trade disputes would increase as other nations felt threatened by China's rise as a manufacturing hub. 'As of last year, China had already become the No1 target of anti-dumping disputes, surpassing Japan,' Mr Li said. Since 1979, there have been more than 550 anti-dumping cases brought against China, and the trend is rising. 'Before we entered the World Trade Organisation, many trade partners often used tariffs against Chinese imports. But after entering the WTO, we have found many erecting an increasing number of non-tariff barriers.' He noted that India was still imposing a huge number of tariffs on Chinese imports, while Japan used a series of 'mandatory' inspections of Chinese merchandise to make it difficult for mainland exporters. For example, Japan recently doubled the quarantine period for mainland eels from 24 hours to 48. It has also drawn up a list of banned pesticides in relation to Chinese rice imports. 'For Chinese rice to be imported into Japan, it must not contain any of 279 pesticides,' Mr Li said. 'You can imagine how difficult it is to pass Japanese customs.' In South Korea, the government not only uses inspections of Chinese imports, it also urges people to buy domestic rather than Chinese products for 'patriotic reasons'. 'In Korea, you have this national patriotic 'Buy Korean' campaign and it primarily targets Chinese agricultural products,' Mr Li said. 'One of our staff members experienced this first hand when he went to Seoul. He went shopping in a market [where] an elderly couple thought he was Korean. 'He was looking for cabbage and the couple told him to buy a particular cabbage because it was Korean and not to buy another because it was from China.' During a dispute over imported Chinese garlic, the Korean government even told people to buy Korean garlic because it was supposedly more nutritious and more suitable for Koreans, he said. Mr Li, who is one of the top experts on trade disputes at the ministry, said he was not surprised that even the US felt threatened by Chinese imports. 'Even small developing nations are filing anti-dumping suits against us these days,' he said. 'Perhaps it is a sign that our manufacturers are globally competitive and are beating their rivals in markets all over the world.'