U.S. authorities said Thursday they were looking into allegations that China was evading millions of dollars of U.S. anti-dumping duties on steel wire products by exporting via third countries.
"The Commerce Department takes seriously allegations about attempts to evade the domestic trade laws and remedies that help ensure a level playing field for American businesses," Commerce Department spokeswoman Parita Shah said. "We will continue to work with our partners across the federal government, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, to address any such efforts."
The U.S. Coalition for Enforcement of Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Orders, comprising six firms producing steel wire products, said it had developed "compelling evidence how certain foreign manufacturers (in China) are evading duties."
In some cases, it said in a statement Monday, they shipped the products via third countries and then "falsely designating it as the country of origin to evade the duties," a practice termed transshipment.
"In other cases, an inconsequential modification is made to the product in third countries to avoid the duties (or) false labels displaying a different country of origin are placed on shipments of products actually made in China."
The coalition named the "third countries" as Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and Mexico.
The Hong Kong and Taiwan economies were also accused of being used by the Chinese based manufacturers to send the products to the United States in an apparent bid to evade duties.
The coalition said it had informed the U.S. government and lawmakers on the problem, adding that duty evasions had cost the authorities "at least $84 million annually" and also "threatened jobs."
"Every office we visited (on Capitol Hill) was very interested in our information and agreed to look into it further," Wendy Watson, spokeswoman for the coalition, told AFP.
U.S. duties slapped on Chinese steel products for alleged dumping or "unfair" subsidies have been part of increasing trade tensions between the United States and China.
In the latest high profile case in December, U.S. authorities decided to impose countervailing duties of up to nearly 16% on imported steel pipes from China valued at $2.6 billion in 2008.
It was the largest countervailing duty case filed against China, based on the value of trade and drew strong criticism from Beijing.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010