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China to Fight Against Unfair Competitors

China, which suffers the largest number of anti-dumping cases in the world, is stepping up efforts to better protect its industries and companies from unfair foreign competitors, senior government officials said.

"It is an imperative task for governments at all levels to resort to legal means that are enshrined by the WTO pact such as anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and other protective measures," said Gao Hucheng, vice-minister of commerce.

He also called for concerted efforts from industrial associations and legal service agencies to secure Chinese firms which are contending against foreign rivals.

The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the country's trade watchdog, along with related industry associations, are now closely watching the trade situation to see if some of the industries are hurt by unfair foreign competitors, said Wang Qinhua, director of the Bureau of Industry Injury Investigation under the MOFCOM.

Since the country's WTO entry in late 2001, Chinese markets have been subjected to heavier competition from foreign imports and trade frictions are also rising, she added.

"Some Chinese firms feel squeezed from undue international competition," said Wang.

It is predicted that the pinch will be more serious as China's WTO grace period is due by the end of the year.

In response to these concerns, the ministry last month launched a website to provide timely information and advice, the latest move to ensure Chinese companies are playing on the level ground.

The move aims to familiarize Chinese firms with trade laws and regulations and to publicize international market data.

The website, based on an old cyber-library of dumping and subsidy information, now collects domestic and international statistics and has become more comprehensive and authoritative, Wang said.

An early-warning system is also incorporated into the website, she said. The system will provide updated information to industries and firms, and warn them of the potential trade risks.

The system now covers oil, chemical, and machinery sectors, informing producers of the international prices and advising them to properly operate their exports. It will be extended to other sectors, Wang said, with the ministry adding information on textiles, iron, steel and automobile industries which are expected to be the next targets of dumping suits.

This early warning is essential to Chinese producers in labor-intensive sectors such as textiles, which are mostly private and small in scale.

These firms, in pursuit of quick returns, tend to export large amounts of goods at very low prices, a practice usually resulting in anti-dumping appeals by other countries.

"It is important to let them know before the threat becomes real, as they are slow in tracing market changes," said Fan Ying, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University.

Commenting on China's current trade remedy situation, Wang said progress has been made since the country has become increasingly integrated itself into global economy.

However, she said, China needs to catch up with developed countries in such efforts as improving legal framework and training professionals.

Up to now, China has filed some 30 anti-dumping cases against foreign countries. This is in stark contrast to the 600 cases that China has had to defend against through last this February. The country has lost more than 60 percent of these anti-dumping cases.

In another development, China has stepped up efforts to lobby the world for market economy status in the past months, a designation that could help shield China in dumping and subsidy cases. The move aims at better protecting domestic industries.

New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa have given China such a status.

But China's three major trading partners, namely the European Union, Japan and the United States, have not granted China this designation.

(China Daily July 5, 2004)

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