China 'to protect its businesses' after fresh USA trade probe

Andrew Cummings
December 1, 2017

Trade cases are typically initiated in response to petitions filed by a domestic industry alleging that dumped or unfairly subsidized goods are being exported to the USA market.

The aluminum move against China comes less than a month after Trump's first trip to Beijing, during which he heaped praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping and lauded USA business deals with China valued at hundreds of billions of dollars.

China didn't immediately respond to the Commerce Department announcement.

Commerce Department
Commerce Department

Earlier this year, the USA began looking into limits on aluminum and steel imports using national security as the reason.

The US Commerce Department issued a statement Tuesday announcing "historic antidumping and countervailing duty investigations" into Chinese aluminum, prompting a swift response from Beijing. If dumping or unfair subsidization is found to be occurring, then Customs and Border Protection will begin requiring cash deposits from all USA companies importing this type of aluminum sheet from China.

The new aluminum probe is the first such move taken since Mr. Trump's trip - but it has been added to an already-broad portfolio of long-dormant measures officials are considering reviving, if they decide to follow through on a more aggressive stance toward China.

Sino-U.S. tensions over trade got ratcheted up another notch on Tuesday - this time over common alloy aluminum sheets from China. It said imports from China of the flat-rolled metal typically used in construction and in transportation and electrical equipment totaled about $603.6 million in 2016.

But the Trump administration has embraced a more go-it-alone approach.

President Donald Trump pledged during the election to get tougher on China, complaining that its mercantilist policies contributed to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. But the Trump administration has so far refrained from following through on that threat.

"President Trump made it clear from day one that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated under this administration, and today we take one more step in fulfilling that promise". Alcoa, which had been down as much as 2%, ended the session up 3%, while downstream aluminum producer Constellium NV rose 1%. Late last month, the USA slapped preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on foil from China - also on anti-dumping grounds. However, Trump has yet to decide whether to take action.

It's the first "self-initiated" probe by Washington since 1991.

"The department also has evidence that imports of common alloy sheet from China may be materially injuring, or threatening material injury to, the domestic industry producing common alloy sheet in the United States", the department said.

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