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WTO faults EU in nuts and bolts dispute with China

The World Trade Organization on Monday ruled against the European Union in a dispute that has been raging since 2009 between the bloc and China over import duties on nuts and bolts.

The world trade body’s fourth and final verdict against the EU in the dispute opens the way for China to request compensation.

China had first brought the case to the WTO in July 2009 after the EU imposed hefty tariffs on imports of some Chinese steel and iron fasteners.

Arguing that dumping was taking place, the EU had in January that year levied tariffs ranging from 26.5 percent to 85 percent on Chinese screws, nuts, bolts and washers.

The Chinese ministry of commerce said in a statement Monday that the measures had since then had “negative effect on exports from China (of) around $1.0 billion” (918 million euros) and had resulted in some 100,000 people losing their jobs with thousands of fastener producers across the country.

“It has resulted in huge economic losses to the Chinese industry,” the statement said.

The WTO has repeatedly found that the EU measures violate global trade rules.

In 2010, a WTO panel ruled that Brussels acted inconsistently in its anti-dumping calculations, and the decision was upheld on appeal in 2011.

But the case did not end there. China did not agree with the EU’s claim in October 2012 that it had adjusted its measures to comply with the WTO ruling.

That panel ruled last August in China’s favour, finding that the EU had failed to make amends, and on Monday a WTO appeals body rejected an EU appeal of that ruling.

The WTO among other things faulted Brussels for imposing anti-dumping duties on all Chinese firms, instead of imposing differentiated duties depending on each company’s practice.

The Chinese commerce ministry statement hailed the ruling, insisting it showed that “discriminative practice and anti-dumping measures taken by certain trade partners against the Chinese products and exporters lack multilateral legal basis under the WTO trade laws.”

It urged the EU quickly comply with the latest WTO ruling “and withdraw the illegal anti-dumping measures on fastener from China as soon as possible.”

The statement warned that China otherwise “reserves its rights to take further steps under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism,” likely referring to its right to request compensation.

It said it hoped the fastener dispute could now be “settled as soon as possible, so as to restore normal bilateral trade for the products concerned.”

Beijing and Brussels have locked horns over a string of trade issues at the WTO, which seeks to set a level playing field for commerce between its members.