The United States government is expected to tighten its anti-dumping policies later this year, making it more difficult for companies targeted by an anti-dumping action to obtain lower punitive duties, or 'separate rates'. This will not be welcome news to the many mainland and Hong Kong firms now facing US anti-dumping actions. 'The US Department of Commerce is seriously considering changing its separate rates policy,' said Eric Johnson, an analyst at US law firm Hunton & Williams who previously worked at the department. A major change proposed was to increase scrutiny of companies before granting them a separate rate, with more on-site investigations, said Edmund Sim, a partner with US law firm White & Case. 'They want to increase scrutiny of the firms, which means fewer companies will get separate rates as the Department of Commerce can't investigate all companies,' said Mr Sim, who has worked on more than 100 anti-dumping cases. 'It will be harder for companies to obtain separate rates as more information will be required.' He expected the changes to be implemented later this year. A separate rate is granted to firms that can prove they are not under the control of non-market economies such as China. Separate rates are typically far lower than general anti-dumping duties. In the case of Chinese wooden bedroom furniture, an industry determined in a preliminary Department of Commerce action in June to be dumping its products in the US, companies qualifying for a separate rate will pay duties of 10.92 per cent, compared with 198.08 per cent for those that do not. As it stands, US authorities rigorously investigate only a handful of the biggest companies, which are then ascribed an individual anti-dumping duty according to their circumstances. In the wooden bedroom furniture case, seven of the biggest manufacturers were investigated and received separate rates ranging from 4.9 per cent to 30.52 per cent. To qualify for a separate rate, companies need to submit information to the US government but normally are not investigated. This might change soon, Mr Sim said. Many mainland and Hong Kong furniture companies were ignorant of the procedures of applying for the separate rate, Hong Kong Furniture and Decoration Trade Association vice-chairman Sidney Lin said. The manufacturers missed the March 1 application deadline for this year and can only reapply for the separate rate next year. In the wooden bedroom furniture case, 102 firms have so far qualified for the rate.