The U.S. imposed duties on imports of aluminum foil from China, ratcheting up trade tensions between the world’s largest economies before President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing next month.
The Commerce Department said Friday it would impose preliminary import duties in the range of 96.81% to 162.24% on Chinese aluminum foil, saying the goods are being sold at unfairly low prices. China disagreed with the U.S. move.
In August, Commerce imposed preliminary duties on Chinese aluminum foil, ranging from 16.56% to 80.97%, citing state subsidies for the domestic industry that disadvantage American products.
The move indicates that the Trump administration intends to keep up the pressure on China as its efforts to shrink America’s trade deficit have seen little success.
China said the U.S. move ignored World Trade Organization rules and called on the government in Washington to fulfill its international obligations. “It not only hurts the interests of Chinese companies but also dents the seriousness and authority of multilateral rules," according to a Chinese Ministry of Commerce statement posted on its website on Saturday night.
China will "take necessary actions" to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies and reserves rights to resolve the dispute under WTO mechanism, it said.
The Aluminum Association Trade Enforcement Working Group, representing U.S. producers, is the petitioner in the countervailing duty and an anti-dumping case.
Friday’s decision on anti-dumping duties had been postponed earlier this month to allow more time to determine whether China should be considered a non-market economy, which could give the U.S. more flexibility in how they calculate tariffs to impose on Chinese products. Commerce will make a final determination on anti-dumping on Feb. 23.
Trump has cited the U.S.’s roughly $350 billion trade deficit with China as evidence of the uneven playing field, and he’s vowed to crack down on unfair trade practices. Yet so far, the administration has failed to deliver on tougher measures as it seeks stronger cooperation from China to combat North Korea.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has launched a probe into China’s stainless steel flanges for alleged unfair subsidies, while the U.S. Trade Representative is investigating China’s intellectual-property practices. In addition, Commerce is examining aluminum imports from China and other foreign nations under the seldom-used Section 232 of the 1960s trade law that allows for tariffs on imports that pose a national security risk.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Asia from Nov. 3 to Nov. 14, with the trip including stops in China, where he’ll meet President Xi Jinping, as well as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
By Randall Woods