China calls US repeat abuser of world trade rules

Above, workers at a steel mill of Dongbei Special Steel in Dalian, Liaoning province. US President Donald Trump earlier announced hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, aimed at hitting Chinese overproduction. (Reuters)
Updated 22 March 2018
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China calls US repeat abuser of world trade rules

SHANGHAI: China accused the US of “repeatedly abusing” international trade rules, as Beijing braced on Thursday for an imminent announcement from President Donald Trump slapping more tariffs on Chinese imports.
A World Trade Organization ruling against Obama-era anti-subsidy tariffs on Wednesday handed China’s commerce ministry ammunition to criticize Washington’s conduct in trade affairs.
The ruling “proves that the US side has violated WTO rules, repeatedly abused trade remedy measures, which has seriously damaged the fair and just nature of the international trade environment and weakened the stability of the multilateral trading system,” the ministry said.
There are growing fears that the world’s two largest economies could be sliding toward a trade war as Trump seeks to fulfill election campaign promises to get tough with China over its huge surplus with the US.
Trump is expected to announce by Friday tariffs on Chinese imports worth up to $60 billion, and Beijing, according to the Wall Street Journal, has prepared retaliatory measures.
In the statement posted on its website late on Wednesday, the commerce ministry urged the US to provide Chinese companies with a “fair and stable international trade environment.”
The WTO ruled the US had not fully complied with a 2014 ruling against its anti-subsidy tariffs on a range of Chinese products. However, it also supported the US claim that Chinese exporters were getting subsidies from “public bodies,” despite Beijing’s assertions to the contrary.
China went to the WTO in 2012 to challenge US anti-subsidy tariffs on Chinese exports including solar panels, wind turbines, steel cylinders and aluminum extrusions.
The tariffs that Trump is expected to announce will aim at curbing theft of US technology by China.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday they would target China’s high technology sector and there could also be restrictions on Chinese investments in the US. Other sectors like apparel could also be hit.
An editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper said the world should stand together to prevent a trade war, warning that China would not be the Trump administration’s only target.
“Since the US seems unlikely to mend its ways, other countries should stop hoping they will be spared its protectionist shots and become more resolute in standing firm against them,” the newspaper said.
“History shows the pinpricks of protectionism can ultimately lead to the shots of war somewhere down the line.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that China was preparing to hit back with tariffs aimed at Trump’s support base, including levies targeting US agricultural exports, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
Analysts said US companies like Boeing Co, which sell billions of dollars’ worth of planes to Chinese airlines, as well as deals which require Chinese approval could also become caught in the cross fire should a trade war break out.
Boeing this week announced a $3.6 billion order from China Southern Airlines Co.’s subsidiary Xiamen Airlines. Chip giant Qualcomm is still waiting for Chinese approval of its proposed $44 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors.
US electric carmaker Tesla Inc. is in long-running talks with Shanghai authorities to build a local manufacturing plant in the city, while Chinese state media have called for measures against US soybean imports to China.
“China has a lot of options on the table with respect to potential retaliation,” said William Marshall, a Hong Kong-based lawyer who advises both US and Chinese clients on investments and disputes.
“Day to day business could become more difficult.”


EU gives Nestle a thumbs down in Kit Kat finger row

Updated 19 April 2018
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EU gives Nestle a thumbs down in Kit Kat finger row

  • Nestle has been locked in a decade-long battle with US rival Mondelez, maker of Cadbury chocolate, over the four-fingered wafer biscuit, which was first sold in 1935.
  • The EU’s intellectual property office allowed Nestle in 2006 to trademark what the court calls the “three-dimensional shape of the ‘Kit Kat 4 fingers’ product.”

Luxembourg: The European Union’s top court should cancel Swiss food giant Nestle’s trademark for the shape of the Kit Kat chocolate bar, the court’s top adviser said Thursday.
Nestle has been locked in a decade-long battle with US rival Mondelez, maker of Cadbury chocolate, over the four-fingered wafer biscuit, which was first sold in 1935.
The EU’s intellectual property office allowed Nestle in 2006 to trademark what the court calls the “three-dimensional shape of the ‘Kit Kat 4 fingers’ product.”
Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should dismiss an appeal by Nestle against a lower court’s 2016 decision to annul the trademark.
“Nestle did not adduce sufficient evidence to show that its trademark had acquired distinctive character,” Wathelet said.
He said the intellectual property office should now “re-examine” its decision.
The Luxembourg-based ECJ often, but not always, follows the advice of the advocate general, its senior legal adviser, when making its final judgment.
The food giant specifically failed to show that the Kit Kat shape was well enough known in Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal, relying instead on market data from other countries, he said.
The official also said the EU court should reject an appeal by Mondelez against part of the judgment, saying it was “manifestly inadmissible.”
Nestle has already lost a legal bid in Britain — currently an EU member state but set to leave next year — to trademark the Kit Kat shape.