Jan. 10 - Chinese companies have been suffering from a growing number of anti-dumping investigations amid mounting trade protectionism around the world, reports Li Jiabao.
For Chinese companies such as Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, strongly reliant on exports, this winter is proving to be long and hard.
The Jiangsu-based company, the world's biggest solar panel maker, has been fighting its corner, alongside other Chinese panel producers, ever since the United States launched anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into China-made solar cells and modules in late 2011 and imposed anti-dumping tariffs of up to 249.96 percent and countervailing duties of up to 15.97 percent in a final ruling of the US International Trade Commission in November.
The European Union followed suit in launching an anti-dumping probe into Chinese solar panels in September, and stepped up the trade battle by opening an anti-subsidy investigation on Nov 8. India added one more blow and started an anti-dumping investigation into solar cells from China on Nov 23.
China's solar export value will be around 13 billion yuan ($2.08 billion) in 2012, down 40 percent from a year earlier. More than half of Chinese small and medium-sized solar manufacturers have suspended production after the US and EU — China's biggest solar export markets — launched investigations, according to Wang Bohua, secretary-general of China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance.
Zhou Hua, deputy director of the division of industry competitiveness analysis of the investigation bureau of industry injury at the Ministry of Commerce, added: "In 2012, the number of trade remedy investigations against China will be slightly more than that in 2011, while the involved export value will be significantly higher than the previous year because of some major cases such as the solar panel one."
Despite the government's recent moves to ease troubled exporters, including a second round of the Golden Sun program to finance more than 100 solar developers, the winter of trade remedy investigations targeting Chinese exporters has come.
"China will have more trade frictions in 2013 and I hope domestic enterprises are well prepared," said Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman and secretary-general of China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
Last year, China had received 53 trade remedy investigations by the end of November affecting exports of $24.2 billion, seven times the amount in 2011, according to Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang.
The figure was 69 in 2011 with export value of $5.9 billion and 66 in 2010 with export value of $7.14 billion, according to the ministry.
China was the world's biggest victim of anti-dumping investigations every year from 1995 to 2011, and also the most targeted in anti-subsidy investigations yearly from 2006 to 2011, according to the ministry. Trade remedy investigations targeting China totaled 758 from 2003 to September of 2012 with export value of $68.4 billion.
"The coming year will see a wider range of Chinese exports caught by trade remedy investigations, and the anti-dumping range will also be heavier," said Wei, a former vice-minister of commerce.
"The emerging economies intensified their gunfire against China, while the developed economies such as the US and the EU stepped back to trade protectionism from advancing free trade," Wei said.
India led the emerging countries in using trade remedy measures in the past decade while China was most targeted. The South Asian country's trade protectionism has brought quite a severe impact to bilateral trade, according to Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute of the Ministry of Commerce.
China was India's second-biggest trade partner, while India was China's ninth largest trade partner. Bilateral trade in 2011 increased by 19.7 percent to $73.92 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs, while India's statistics showed that India's trade deficit with China jumped 42 percent to nearly $40 billion in the last fiscal year ending March 31.
As China boosts its economic power, trade frictions against China are shifting from low-end industries to high-tech sectors, which is in line with China's industrial upgrading, said Gu Chunfang, head of the ministry's investigation bureau of industry injury.
"Some developed economies turned to protectionism rather than improving their industrial competitiveness to cope with China's industrial development. In addition, trade remedy investigations more frequently target China's industrial policies, including blaming the market status of China's State-owned enterprises, which has brought about broader and deeper impacts," Gu said.
Shen blamed the sluggish world economy for rising trade protectionism.
"The world economy will maintain slow growth in 2013 with rising trade protectionism. China's trade growth in 2013 will face headwinds owing to a challenging external environment," he said during a news conference on Dec 18.
China's share of global trade is expected to further expand this year from the 10.5 percent in 2011. The share was 11.1 percent in the first nine months of 2012, according to Shen.
Following the accession to the World Trade Organization, China will automatically get full market economy status by 2016, and Wei projected increasing trade frictions before then.
Market economy status will reduce the legal basis and policy instruments to curb Chinese exports and make anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations less frequent.
Facing a challenging trade outlook, Wei called for the government to draw up a plan to hit back at trade frictions against China.
"Moreover, Chinese enterprises should also stand up against external challenges," he said.
China's leading shoemaker, Aokang Group Co Ltd, won a legal case in late November against the EU's anti-dumping measures on Chinese leather shoes following the EU imposition of anti-dumping duties of 16.5 percent on imports of Chinese shoes in 2006.
Experts said that the company will get more than 5 million yuan ($801,600) in compensation for legal costs, and importers and exporters in trade relations with Aokang will recover the anti-dumping duties levied by the EU during the past six years.