| A customer looks at Chinese televisions at a department store in Shanghai. (Reuters)
Hong Kong/Washington, Nov. 25 (Reuters): The US has accused Chinese companies of dumping televisions on the American market and slapped stiff duties on the products, in the latest flare-up in trade tension between the two economic giants.
China called the US move discriminatory and unfair.
The US commerce department ruled yesterday that televisions from four Chinese firms were being sold in the US at less than fair value and announced provisional anti-dumping duties of 28 to 46 per cent on the sets.
China called for consultations to mend the trade rift. The TV ruling followed a US decision last week to limit Chinese textile imports that prompted threats of Chinese retaliation.
The disputes add to tensions between the world’s biggest and fifth-biggest trading nations, fanning fears in Asia that the US is growing more protectionist.
American television makers and unions complained that imports from China and Malaysia had mushroomed to 2.65 million sets a year in 2002 from 210,000 two years earlier. No ruling was made against Malaysian televisions.
“Dumping can seriously injure or destroy an entire industry,” Tom Hopson, the president of Tennessee television maker Five Rivers Electronic Innovations LLC said in a statement.
“US workers lose jobs when employers are forced to compete with unfair imports, which pressure American manufacturers to lower prices in what is typically a futile attempt to maintain market share.”
Booming Chinese factories have become important suppliers to major US retailers such as Wal-Mart, boosting the American trade deficit with China to a record $103 billion last year.
US officials have pressured China to revalue the yuan, to ease stress on American manufacturers who blame Chinese competition for the loss of millions of jobs.
Some analysts say they expect a series of trade skirmishes with China ahead of US elections next year. President George W. Bush’s re-election bid could be determined by a clutch of manufacturing states.
Other US industries — including iron pipe and bedroom furniture makers — have also sought protection under anti-dumping laws.
Chinese officials expressed concern about the television tariffs and called for talks to resolve the row. “As for the current differences over Sino-US trade, we support solving these problems through consultation on the basis of equality,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
Shares in TCL International Holdings, one of the firms affected by the ruling, initially slid almost three per cent before recovering to close unchanged in a Hong Kong market that rose 1.35 per cent. TCL, which formed a joint venture this month with French electronics maker Thomson SA to form the world’s biggest TV maker, downplayed the impact of the US ruling.
“The impact is small. We are not too surprised about the ruling. The European countries have been imposing a 40-50 percent (tariff),” Shirley Yau, investors relations manager at TCL International said.
Another affected firm, Sichuan Changhong Electronic Co, said it was extremely shocked by the US finding.
“All of Changhong’s exports to the US have reasonable profit margins,” the company said in a statement, as its shares slid 1.2 per cent.