China files WTO challenge to US tariffs on solar panels

The 30 percent tariffs announced in January improperly help US producers in violation of WTO rules, China’s commerce ministry said. (Reuters)
Updated 15 August 2018
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China files WTO challenge to US tariffs on solar panels

  • The 30 percent tariffs announced in January improperly help US producers in violation of WTO rules, China’s commerce ministry said
  • China has tried to portray itself as a defender of the WTO-based trading system

BEIJING: China says it is challenging a US tariff hike on solar panels before the World Trade Organization, adding to its sprawling conflicts with President Donald Trump over trade and technology.
The 30 percent tariffs announced in January improperly help US producers in violation of WTO rules, the Commerce Ministry said. It said a formal complaint was filed Tuesday with the WTO in Geneva.
The solar duties are separate from tariff hikes imposed by the Trump administration starting in July on Chinese imports in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.
The duties also apply to imports of solar cells and modules from Europe, Canada, Mexico and South Korea. That strained relations with US allies.
The Trump administration has defended the solar tariffs as necessary to protect American producers, saying import prices were unfairly low due to subsidies and other improper support.
Washington took action under a 1974 US law instead of through the WTO. That led to complaints it was undermining the global trade body. US officials say such action is necessary because the WTO lacks the ability to address Chinese trade tactics.
China has tried to portray itself as a defender of the WTO-based trading system. It has attempted to recruit European and other governments as allies against Washington, but they echo US complaints about Chinese market barriers and industrial policy.
The European Union filed its own WTO complaint in June against Chinese technology policies it said violate Beijing’s free-trade commitments.
The US solar action “seriously damaged China’s trade interests” and “also affects the seriousness and authority of WTO rules,” said a Commerce Ministry statement.
WTO complaints begin with negotiations between parties to the dispute. If those fail, the case moves to a panel of experts who can decide whether the trade controls are improper.
In their technology dispute, Washington imposed 25 percent duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods it said benefit from improper industrial policies. Beijing responded with similar penalties.
Another round of US tariff hikes on $16 billion of Chinese goods is due to take effect Aug. 23. Beijing says it will retaliate.
Earlier, Beijing filed a separate WTO challenge on July 16 to Trump’s proposal for yet another round of increases that would add 25 percent import duties on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods.


‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

Updated 26 May 2019
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‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

  • This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei
  • Another critical partner, ARM Holdings, said it was complying with the US restrictions

BEIJING: While Huawei’s founder brushes aside a US ban against his company, the telecom giant’s employees have been less sanguine, confessing fears for their future in online chat rooms.
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei declared this week the company has a hoard of microchips and the ability to make its own in order to withstand a potentially crippling US ban on using American components and software in its products.
“If you really want to know what’s going on with us, you can visit our Xinsheng Community,” Ren told Chinese media, alluding to Huawei’s internal forum partially open to viewers outside the company.
But a peek into Xinsheng shows his words have not reassured everyone within the Shenzhen-based company.
“During difficult times, what should we do as individuals?” posted an employee under the handle Xiao Feng on Thursday.
“At home reduce your debts and maintain enough cash,” Xiao Feng wrote.
“Make a plan for your financial assets and don’t be overly optimistic about your remuneration and income.”
This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei as a result of the ban.
Another critical partner, ARM Holdings — a British designer of semiconductors owned by Japanese group Softbank — said it was complying with the US restrictions.
“On its own Huawei can’t resolve this problem, we need to seek support from government policy,” one unnamed employee wrote last week, in a post that received dozens of likes and replies.
The employee outlined a plan for China to block off its smartphone market from all American components much in the same way Beijing fostered its Internet tech giants behind a “Great Firewall” that keeps out Google, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other foreign companies.
“Our domestic market is big enough, we can use this opportunity to build up domestic suppliers and our ecosystem,” the employee wrote.
For his part, Ren advocated the opposite response in his interview with Chinese media.
“We should not promote populism; populism is detrimental to the country,” he said, noting that his family uses Apple products.
Other employees strategized ways to circumvent the US ban.
One advocated turning to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao to buy the needed components. Another dangled the prospect of setting up dozens of new companies to make purchases from US suppliers.
Many denounced the US and proposed China ban McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and all-American movies and TV shows.
“First time posting under my real name: we must do our jobs well, advance and retreat with our company,” said an employee named Xu Jin.
The tech ban caps months of US effort to isolate Huawei, whose equipment Washington fears could be used as a Trojan horse by Chinese intelligence services.
Still, last week Trump indicated he was willing to include a fix for Huawei in a trade deal that the two economic giants have struggled to seal and US officials issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban.
In Xinsheng, an employee with the handle Youxin lamented: “I want to advance and retreat alongside the company, but then my boss told me to pack up and go,” followed by two sad-face emoticons.