Last Friday, China filed a trade complaint with the WTO challenging US countervailing duties against 22 Chinese export products including solar cells.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce preliminarily ruled to levy stiff tariffs on imports of Chinese solar cells. The Chinese claim that the U.S. measures under contention, including against solar imports, impact Chinese exports to the U.S. worth $7.3 billion.
China accuses the U.S. of using trade protectionist measures unfairly in order to shield U.S. companies from Chinese competition.
“The relevant practices constitute the abuse of trade remedy measures which undermines the legitimate interests of China’s enterprises,” China’s mission to the WTO said in a statement.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce said that the U.S. had unfairly subsidised six renewable energy projects, violating the rules of free-trade. The ruling is a result of an investigation launched in November in response to Washington’s own inquiry into whether Chinese manufacturers were dumping solar cells on the market at below-cost prices.
The Ministry of Commerce announcement did not include details but an earlier statement said the investigation covered wind, solar and hydropower projects in Washington, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and California.
In Friday’s WTO filing, China requested consultations with the U.S. to resolve the dispute; the U.S. has ten days to respond to the request and must start negotiations within 30 days. If the negotiations fail, China can request a judgment from a WTO panel, which can order the U.S. to pay compensation or abandon the measures.
“China’s resort to dispute settlement is premature and not an appropriate use of dispute settlement system resources,” said Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
“This step by China suggests that China does not really care what the United States does; rather, China has determined without benefit of the facts that whatever the United States does will fall short of what China would like to see,” Harmon said.