The US Department of Commerce (USDOC) has provisionally set anti-dumping tariffs on some imported paper products from China.
Duties ranging from 52.1 to 258.21 percent have been set, according to the department on Monday, an announcement that has hit Chinese paper producers hard.
The products include lined paper typically supplied to schools such as notebooks, composition books and graph paper.
The decision takes effect retroactively and duties are payable as of mid-January 2006.
The USDOC is due to make its final decision on tariff rates in August.
Officials from the department are expected to visit Shanghai next month, sources said.
According to the China Stationery & Sporting Goods Association, more than 30 companies were involved in the anti-dumping investigation. Their total exports of lined paper products to the US are worth as much as US$130 million.
"The result is fairly bad, and will greatly dampen local producers' confidence in exports to the US market," said Meng Jianbing, a lawyer from the Beijing-based Seafront Law Office.
"With such high margins, we cannot do anything but give up the US market," said a marketing manager surnamed Yang from Yalong Paper Products (Kunshan) Co Ltd.
The company's exports to the US account for five percent of its total sales. It has been set a duty margin of 135 percent.
Last September, the Association of American School Paper Suppliers asked the USDOC and the US International Trade Commission to conduct an investigation into the alleged dumping of imported lined paper products from China.
23 Chinese producers responded to the investigation.
The USDOC preliminarily concluded: "There is sufficient evidence to warrant a finding. Critical circumstances exist with respect to all Chinese producers, except for only two."
The two were Shanghai Lian Li Paper Products Co Ltd (Lian Li) and the Watanabe Group, which were issued rates of 52.1 and 143.49 percent respectively.
Another 21 companies have been set an average dumping margin of 135.02 percent. All other local producers are subject to the highest margin of 258.21 percent.
Although it has preliminarily been given the lowest margin, bosses at Sentian Paper Products Co Ltd (Sentian) under Lian Li are far from happy.
"The rate is awful," said a deputy general manager at Sentian, who declined to be named. "We are labor-intensive; how can we bear that burden?"
She refused to disclose the exact impact of the tariff in dollar terms, but said the US market makes up "a fairly big" part of Sentian's exports.
The China Chamber of Commerce for Light Industrial Products and Arts is now helping relevant Chinese companies plan what they should do next.
Although there is still a chance for the USDOC to reduce the dumping margins, "the possibility of that happening is almost nil", according to Meng.
The US has also set anti-dumping duties for imports of lined products from India, with margins ranging from 22.53 to 110.43 percent.
(China Daily April 13, 2006)