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US asks WTO to rule on China raw materials restrictions
Published on: 2009-11-05
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WASHINGTON — The United States, joined by the EU and Mexico, asked the World Trade Organization Wednesday to rule on a dispute over Chinese restrictions on raw materials exports, officials said.


The move seeks a formal WTO panel on a complaint filed June 23 alleging China improperly restricts exports to materials to help its own manufacturers.


"We are going to the WTO today to enforce America's rights, so we can provide our country's manufacturers with a fair competitive environment," said Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).


"We believe the restraints at issue in this dispute significantly distort the international market and provide preferential conditions for Chinese industries that use these raw materials," she added.


"Working together with the European Union and Mexico, we tried to resolve this issue through consultations, but did not succeed. At this point, therefore, we need to move forward with the next step in the WTO dispute settlement process. We remain open to working with China to find a mutually agreeable solution to our concerns."


The materials at issue are: bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon metal, silicon carbide, yellow phosphorus, and zinc, key inputs for numerous products in the steel, aluminum and chemical sectors across the globe.


The United States and the 27-nation EU filed the initial complaint at the WTO on June 23, and Mexico joined the consultations on August 21.


The USTR said the European Union and Mexico are joining the United States in requesting the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel on the matter.


In filing the complaint, US officials said Chinese actions were part of a "troubling" industrial policy that aims to favor its own manufacturing sector.


According to the complaint, China imposes quotas on exports of some materials and slaps export duties on several raw materials. Other restrictions come in the form of export procedures, including via certain charges that violate global trade rules, according to US officials.


American officials said China's WTO Accession Protocol also contains "broad commitments not to restrict the right to export goods."


The dispute is among several pending in the Geneva-based WTO involving China.


In another case, the WTO's dispute settlement panel in August found that China was breaching international trade rules by blocking foreign-owned companies from acting as importers and wholesalers of films, music and printed material.


The US last year hauled China to the WTO over Beijing's programs to market Chinese-branded goods which Washington charged were based on "protectionist" policy.


China lost an appeal last December against a WTO ruling that its tariffs on car part imports fell foul of global trade rules.


Beijing meanwhile lodged a complaint with the WTO earlier this year over what it claimed were unfair tariffs imposed by Washington on tires.

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