Ceramic makers to unite in EU anti-dumping probe

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Chinese ceramic makers said Wednesday they would work together to defend themselves in the European Union's anti-dumping investigation into imports of Chinese-made ceramic tiles.

The European Commission said Monday they had started to investigate whether imports of ceramic tiles from China are being dumped on the EU market after a complaint was lodged by the European Ceramic Tile Manufacturers' Federation (CET) in May.

More than 150 representatives from about 100 firms Tuesday gathered in Foshan City, where 80 percent of the 1,400 ceramic producers involved in the probe are located, to discuss ways to deal with the biggest anti-dumping investigation ever into the Chinese ceramic industry, according to the China Ceramics Industry Association (CCIA).

"If the commission thinks the anti-dumping charges are true, a 430.5-percent punitive tariff will be imposed on Chinese ceramic companies, which means the EU's ceramic market would be closed to 'made-in-China' products," said Lan Weibin, director with CCIA's Foshan Office.

"The impact on the industry would be tremendous," he said.

This was the sixth time in 10 years that the EU had launched an anti-dumping probe into Chinese made ceramics. Chinese firms had suffered great losses in the previous charges, said Lan.

"The anti-dumping charge is not fair as Chinese exports of ceramics to the EU increased by only 1 percent last year, while sales of some major ceramic producing EU countries dropped by 40 percent," said Lan.

About 40 percent of ceramic production lines in the EU's major producers like Spain and Italy had closed during the economic downturn due to rising costs and shrinking profits, said Chen Yanbing, president of Yashi Gaofu Ceramics Co..

However, Chinese ceramic makers had seen exports to the EU growing. In 2008, China exported 180 million dollars worth of ceramics to the EU, and that increased to 200 million dollars last year, according to the CCIA.

"Chinese ceramics do have price advantages over EU local products, but it is due to lower costs for Chinese firms," said Lan.

The average price of Chinese ceramics exported to the EU was 5 dollars while the prices of Spanish and Italian products were around 13 to 14 dollars.

"European ceramic makers usually import pottery clay from China and Southeast Asia, and the transportation drives up the costs. Besides, the labor costs in Europe are much higher than in China," said Lan.

"It's actually trade protectionism in the name of anti-dumping. We will make full use of the WTO rules to fight this war," said Pu Dingxin, president of the Louis Valentino Ceramic Co., in Foshan city.

"We have to work together to respond to the investigation which, on the other hand, also makes us see clearer that great price quality is not our advantage. We need to have our own brands and develop products with high added-value," said Chen.

China is the European Union's second-largest trade partner after the United States, with bilateral trade standing at 360 billion dollars in 2009.

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