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China to Renew Plea for WTO Panel
China is to renew its request to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for an independent panel on the controversial United States steel tariffs -- despite recent US exemption of some products and a ruling on an anti-dumping charge in favor of Chinese steel companies.

"China will go for an independent panel at the WTO unless the United States exempts all of China's steel products from its tariffs," said an official with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation (MOFTEC).

A WTO official also confirmed that China's second request for an independent steel panel, together with those of Norway and Switzerland, has been included in the next meeting of its dispute settlement body scheduled on June 24.

The United States will not be able to block China's second request and a panel will have to be set up then, the WTO official said.

China made its first request in early June but the United States used its rights at the WTO to hinder the establishment of such a panel on June 7.

China follows the European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea, which have had independent panels on US steel tariffs set up at the WTO with their second requests.

The measures are in response to US tariffs of 8 percent to 30 percent, adopted by US President George W. Bush in March to protect US domestic steel industries.

On Monday, the US Department of Commerce dropped 46 more steel products from the list of imports that are subjective to the tariffs.

This follows an earlier removal of 61 products from the list and US trade officials said this would not be the last amendment.

Chinese officials said some Chinese steel products will hopefully be able to benefit from the exemption.

Liu Danyang, a MOFTEC official, said the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals is organizing Chinese companies to apply for exemption according to the recent removals.

But he said the removals make up only a very tiny part of the US steel imports that are covered by the tariffs and an even smaller proportion of China's steel exports to the US.

The first 61 exemptions amount to about 1 percent of the steel covered by the tariffs.

This is the first time China brings its trade dispute with another country to the WTO for judgment.

Ma Yu, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation, a MOFTEC think tank, said this will be an invaluable experience for China as a new player within international trade rules.

"China could watch what other countries do to the trade protectionist US tariffs and learn to cope with the abuse of anti-dumping measures against Chinese companies and likely similar situations China might encounter later," he said.

China is now the world's largest victim of WTO-allowed trade protection measures such as anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard actions.

Chinese companies have been involved in 428 cases so far, with the majority of them ending against Chinese companies and blocking billions of dollars of Chinese exports, official statistics reveal.

The Chinese Government is taking great efforts to help domestic firms deal with foreign charges, which seem to be having effect.

The US International Trade Commission announced on Monday that steel exporters in China, Taiwan Province, Russia and four other countries have been cleared of charges they were dumping structural steel beams in the US market.

The US trade commission ruled 4-1 on Monday that imports of steel beams were not harming US domestic steel makers, said a lawyer representing exporters.

(People's Daily June 19, 2002)

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