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Protectionism Serves to Harm Trade Future

The US decision to initiate an anti-dumping investigation of China's furniture exports, unfortunately, cast the latest and largest cloud on trade relations between the two countries.

Yet, it also casts a silver lining, timely highlighting the urgent need for US efforts in response to China's words and deeds to reduce the trade imbalance between the two goliaths.

The US Commerce Department announced last Thursday that it has accepted a complaint against imported Chinese wooden bedroom furniture and will launch an investigation that could lead to imposition of dumping duties.

The anti-dumping case, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, could affect Chinese exports to the United States worth about US$1 billion, the biggest sum China has ever encountered in such a case.

It is similar to a series of protectionist moves the United States recently took against Chinese exports, ranging from textiles to television sets. It will deal another blow to the normal Sino-US trade relations. Worse still, the case finds the US Government this time going so far as to direct its protectionist fire at a Chinese sector that is mostly composed of private enterprises and joint-ventures operations.

One typical old trick that US protectionists deploy in anti-dumping cases is to abuse the practice of indicting Chinese products by using cost data from third countries.

But given the obvious dominance of private and foreign-funded enterprises in the Chinese furniture market arena, it is utterly unjustifiable that the United States still regards the sector as a non-market economy business area.

The US side's erroneous moves only expose a dangerous rise in protectionism in the world's largest economy.

During his three-day visit to the United States last week, Premier Wen Jiabao clearly expressed China's sincerity to seek mutual benefits and win-win results in bilateral trade relations. The Chinese side has not only recognized the fact the United States does have a sizable deficit in trade with China but has come up with a constructive approach to promote a balance in bilateral trade.

And it was wise for Wen to point out that to achieve a trade balance would require some time and joint efforts by the two sides.

China is very much ready to increase US imports, but so far the latter has shown no desire to open more to China, especially in the high-tech sector.

The new US anti-dumping case against Chinese furniture exporters almost concurred with Wen's offer of five trade-related proposals to US President George W. Bush. The fact demonstrates a deepening US belief in protectionist policies.

Nevertheless, reducing American imports from China is not a solution to the US appetite for inexpensive but quality goods from many countries. In a view of long-term development, as China increases its demand for Made-in-USA products, a meaningful fix of the current bilateral trade imbalance requires a simultaneous effort by the United States to lift various restrictions on exporting to the Chinese market.

(China Daily December 15, 2003)

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