Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies continued to simmer as Beijing took aim at imports of a key chemical from the US, the latest move in a growing standoff between the pair.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce yesterday announced it had found dumping of styrene monomer imports from Taiwan, the US, and South Korea in an initial ruling of an ongoing trade investigation into the chemical.
Dumping, or selling goods at unfairly low prices abroad, can undercut domestic markets at the expense of local industries.
“Mainland China’s styrene industry has suffered substantial harm,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that dumping was the cause of this harm.
The initial ruling called for importers to place anti-dumping cash deposits of 5 to 10.7 percent with the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China in a preliminary ruling that styrene monomer from Taiwan, the US and South Korea is being sold at prices 5 to 10.7 percent below the proper level.
The deposits will be applied to tariffs if the ministry decides to levy duties in a final ruling.
Styrene is the building block of many plastics, used to make foam packaging and many disposable plastics.
Last year, China imported 3.2 billion kilograms of the chemical from the US worth more than US$4 billion.
The measures come a month after US President Donald Trump’s administration launched new tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels and washing machines.
Those tariffs followed a raft of new trade cases against China during Trump’s first year in office, which have rattled Beijing.
Last week, China expressed concern over the ramping up of trade investigations by the US.
Analysts say Beijing is signaling it will take action in a tit-for-tat trade war.
Last week it launched an anti-dumping investigation into sorghum imports from the US, worth almost US$1 billion last year.
That was a sliver of the US$14 billion in US soybean imports, which a ministry spokesman also hinted could be in Beijing’s crosshairs.
Soybeans are the US’ largest export to China.
The Trump administration has put leveling the trade playing field near the top of its agenda for Sino-US relations.
However, in Trump’s first year as president the trade deficit swelled to a record high of US$375.2 billion by the US’ counting.
Additional reporting by AP
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