US delays ruling on China's treatment as non-market economy

Chinese workers packaging aluminium tapes at an aluminium production plant in Huaibei, east China's Anhui province, on May 20, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - The US Commerce Department has deferred a decision on whether China should be treated as a market economy until after President Donald Trump's visit to the Asian nation next month (November).

The Commerce Department on Thursday (Oct 5) delayed a decision on whether to impose preliminary duties on aluminium foil imports from China to penalise Chinese suppliers from selling the product in the US at less than fair-market value.

The department said it will announce its determination on the anti-dumping probe, along with a decision on China's non-market economy status, no later than Nov 30.

The department launched the review in April.

Under the rules of the World Trade Organisation, countries that do not consider China a market economy have more flexibility in how they calculate tariffs to impose on Chinese products found to break trade rules.

The Commerce Department's move puts off another decision that could inflame relations with China as Mr Trump prepares for his first trip as president to the world's second-biggest economy.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said the US would not decide whether to impose tariffs on foreign steel until after the administration's push for tax reforms by year-end.

The White House announced last month that Mr Trump will travel to Asia from Nov 3 to 14, including stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

"In all cases, the Department conducts a full and fair assessment of the facts," Mr Ross said on Thursday in announcing the delay. "This extension will ensure that the highest standards are followed in this case as we seek to guarantee fair treatment for US workers and businesses."

A final determination on anti-dumping duties in the Chinese aluminium foil probe would be made 75 days after the preliminary decision. In August, the US imposed preliminary countervailing duties on Chinese aluminium foil from China, ranging from 16.56 per cent to 80.97 per cent, after finding they were subsidised.

In 2016, US imports of aluminium foil from China were valued at US$389 million (S$531 million), according to the Commerce Department.

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