Beijing accuses US, EU of dumping rubber on China as trade dispute shows no signs of tiring

Importers hit with duty deposits of up to 66 per cent, a day after US takes similar punitive action against Chinese aluminium

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 12:38am

China has announced new tariffs on rubber imported from the United States, European Union and Singapore after an investigation found it was being sold at unfairly low prices.

While the move was not directly targeted at Washington, it came just a day after a US inquiry accused China of selling heavily subsidised aluminium sheet on the American market.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Thursday that foreign suppliers had been “dumping” chlorobutyl rubber, which is used to make tyres, on China at the expense of local companies.

In an initial ruling, importers representing companies like ExxonMobil and Arlanxeo were told to pay import duty deposits ranging from 26 per cent to 66.5 per cent to China customs.

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The statement said the anti-dumping investigation was initiated in August, but the ruling came as China and the US remain locked in a tit-for-tat trade fight, and just two days after Beijing imposed preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 179 per cent on US sorghum.

The US Commerce Department said on Tuesday that its investigations found that Chinese aluminium sheet sold in the US had been subsidised by between 31.2 and 113.3 per cent. It said also that it was starting a new inquiry to determine if certain types of steel wheels imported from China were being “dumped” in the US.

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While the investigations are not directly related, the recent exchange of trade moves by the world’s two largest economies may undermine the limited goodwill they share and make it harder for them to avoid a full-blown trade war further down the road.

Gao Feng, China’s commerce ministry spokesperson, told a news conference that Beijing and Washington had agreed to discuss their trade dispute, but that no talks had yet been held.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said on Thursday that as part of its efforts to end the import of “foreign trash”, China would ban incoming shipments of a further 16 waste plastics and industrial scrap at the end of this year, and 16 more at the end of 2019.

The new additions, which would extend the restricted items list to 157, include scrap from electrical appliances and steel slag, the ministry said.

According to figures from the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace, at its peak in 2012 China imported more than 9 million tonnes of plastic waste from around the world, much of which was used as raw materials for manufacturing. In recent years, however, the country has sought to curb such imports in the interests of environmental protection.

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In July, Beijing issued a ban, effective from the start of 2018, on 24 types of waste including mining slag, waste textiles, household waste plastics and unsorted waste paper. In the first quarter of this year, waste imports fell by 54 per cent, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs.

According to the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the US exported US$5.6 billion worth of scrap to China in 2016. Similarly, according to Greenpeace, since 2012, the UK has shipped more than 2.7 million tonnes of plastic scrap, or two thirds of its total waste plastic exports, to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.

Xu Jianwei, a senior economist from the French bank Natixis, said the timing of the announcement by the environment ministry might not have been a coincidence.

“China has been planning to increase its ban on solid waste imports for a long time,” he said. “It’s a bit far-fetched to say the current US-China trade tension is what sparked the latest extension, but it could have speeded up the process.”