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China says it can handle US auto complaint

Beijing, Jul 6 – China said Friday it would “appropriately” handle Washington’s complaint with the World Trade Organization over Chinese duties on cars from the United States, amid rising tensions in bilateral trade.

“China will appropriately handle relevant requests for consultation according to WTO dispute settlement procedures,” the commerce ministry said in a one-line statement reacting to the US move.

China announced last year it would impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties on more than $3 billion in exports of American-produced automobiles, amid a rising number of tit-for-tat bilateral trade actions.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in Washington on Thursday that President Barack Obama’s administration had asked the WTO for “dispute settlement consultations” in the case, the first step in a trade grievance.

“The key principle at stake is that China must play by the rules of the global trading system,” the White House said in a statement.

“When it does not, the Obama administration will take action to ensure that American businesses and workers are competing on a level playing field.”

China set the duties for imports of some passenger cars and sports utility vehicles, applying anti-dumping penalties from 2.0 percent to 21.5 percent and anti-subsidy tariffs at a maximum 12.9 percent.

It reportedly affects no more than 50,000 units a year — a small fraction of the total number of vehicles sold in China — and US manufacturers said Beijing had kept the action in reserve as it waited to see how Washington dealt with other trade problems.

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