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     BEIJING (MNI) - In a drastically different tone to that heard during U.S.
President Donald Trump visit to Beijing a month ago, the Chinese government on
Thursday sharpened its rhetoric on trade relations with both the United States
and the European Union, charging that its two largest trading partners are
trying to weaken the World Trade Organization.
     At a press conference here, Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) spokesman Gao
Feng claimed the U.S. Trade Representative's recent declaration refusing to
recognize China as a market economy "put domestic law over international law"
and said the U.S. might be trying to ignore WTO rules. 
     Being recognized as a market economy would limit the ability of other
countries to use domestic anti-dumping trade laws against China. Beijing argues
that it should now be recognized as a market economy under agreements made when
it entered the WTO in 2001. 
     CHINA SAYS U.S. 'PLAYING DIRTY' ON TRADE
     China believes the U.S. was intentionally sending a "negative signal" ahead
of a WTO hearing held Wednesday to discuss China's complaint against the use by
the EU of a stronger "surrogate country approach" in implementing anti-dumping
sanctions, Gao said.
     Gao's comments came days after China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued
the U.S. insistence that China was not a market economy is "reminiscent of the
domestic laws of certain WTO members during the Cold War era." 
     Chinese officials and state media have openly blasted the USTR
announcement, charging the U.S. is "playing dirty" to further its trade agenda. 
     MARKET ECONOMY STATUS KEY TO LIMITING TRADE SANCTIONS ON CHINA IMPORTS
     The U.S. officially opposed China's bid to be granted market-economy status
in a submission to the WTO in support of the EU's position in a complaint
brought by China against the EU anti-dumping trade practices. The U.S. and EU
hold that the Chinese government's central role in the country's economic
system, especially the dominance of state-owned enterprises, fails the test for
a true market-based economy. 
     China has been seeking market-economy status to prevent other countries
from continuing to use the "surrogate country approach" in determining the value
of anti-dumping trade sanctions. This approach allows countries to use the
prices of goods in third countries as a comparison to the prices of disputed
imports, leading to sanctions of much higher value. The prohibition on using
this approach would see much lower import duties imposed on Chinese goods, or
none at all, significantly improving the outlook for Chinese exports.
     U.S. opposition to China being granted market-economy status, along with
its recent trade actions against Chinese imports -- such as its anti-dumping and
countervailing duty investigations of Chinese aluminum alloy sheet imports --
are hurting bilateral trade relations, Gao stressed.
     "Trade protectionism is like drinking poisonous wine to quench thirst," Gao
told reporters. "Only open cooperation can expand the benefits of both sides."
     Gao iterated that China urges all WTO members, including the U.S. and EU,
to comply with WTO rules "truly and entirely", in particular stopping the use of
the "surrogate country approach" in anti-dumping trade actions. 
     "China has always stressed that it will fulfill the obligation required by
the WTO," Gao said. "But China must have its rights assured by the WTO."
     Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan will lead a delegation to the 11th WTO
Ministerial Conference to be held December 10-13 in Argentina capital Buenos
Aires joining trade and commerce officials from the other 163 WTO countries, Gao
said. The future direction of the global multi-lateral trading system would be
discussed at meeting and China will seek to defend the authority and
effectiveness of WTO rules, he said. 
--MNI Beijing Bureau; +86 (10) 8532-5998; email: iris.ouyang@marketnews.com
--MNI BEIJING Bureau; +1 202-371-2121; email: john.carter@mni-news.com
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