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Sino-US Trade Spat Further Frayed

Sino-US trade tensions deepened Saturday with a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) decision allowing anti-dumping duties on Chinese iron pipefittings, capping a week when the two countries fought over textile trade.

The ITC completed a year-long investigation by ruling in a 6-0 vote that two small American firms were harmed by China's sales of pipefittings at below-market prices.

The vote paves the way for the U.S. Commerce Department to finalize U.S. duties expected to average about 11 percent on the iron pipe fittings used for natural gas, oil and water pipelines.

The US$20 million worth of Chinese pipe-fitting shipments are dwarfed by China's textile and apparel exports to the United States, which are valued at about US$11 billion a year.

China has voiced outrage over Bush administration plans, announced Wednesday, to limit surging Chinese exports of knit fabrics, bathrobes and brassieres.

The U.S. textile industry, which has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs from cheap imports, is pressing for protections on a far broader range of clothing from China.

By year's end, the U.S. and China could also find themselves caught up in a trade fight over furniture.

ITC investigators Saturday were probing China's rapidly growing shipments of wooden bedroom furniture, amid requests by the U.S. industry for stiff anti-dumping duties.

A preliminary vote on whether U.S. companies are harmed by China's furniture exports is expected in mid- to late December, around the time the U.S. Commerce Department makes a preliminary decision on possible anti-dumping duties against China.

The disputes come against a backdrop of China's anger over U.S. steel tariffs.

The two U.S. pipefitting companies that sought the anti-dumping duties are Ward Manufacturing of Blossburg, Pennsylvania, and Anvil International Inc. of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Thomas Gleason, vice president of marketing and sales for Ward Manufacturing, said the U.S. Commerce Department notified his firm the final anti-dumping rate would average about 11 percent, far below what he said was needed to discourage imports.

During testimony Saturday, American firms, many based in Southern states that have been losing textile and manufacturing jobs, complained about China's bedroom furniture exports.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2003)

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