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US tariff on Chinese garlic imports 'unjust'

Updated: 2012-04-14 13:21

By Bao Chang (China Daily)

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Washington's decision to maintain anti-dumping duty on fresh garlic from China is unfair and Chinese exporters should do more to defend their interests amid rising global trade protectionism, officials said.

The US International Trade Commission said in a statement on Friday it would continue to levy anti-dumping duty as high as 376.67 percent on imports of Chinese fresh garlic .

The commission claimed that "revoking the existing anti-dumping duty on fresh garlic from China would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury" to US garlic producers.

The decision comes under the commission's five-year review of Chinese garlic imports launched last September, the third since 1994.

Zhou Shijian, a senior fellow at the China-US Relations Center of Tsinghua University, challenged the US decision, pointing out that it is "impossible" for Chinese garlic to be priced so much lower than the fair market value.

He called on the US commission to conduct adequate research of the situation in China "instead of trusting partial materials".

"It's unjust that the US commission made a final decision depending only on information offered by the US side without investigating the true market condition of Chinese exports," Zhou said.

According to the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuff and Native Produce, most Chinese garlic exporters failed to file responses to the US commission's review.

A spokesman for the chamber said it was incumbent on Chinese exporters to actively respond to the trade investigation and defend their own interests.

China's garlic producers are mostly small and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas, which lack awareness of how to safeguard their interests in international trade disputes.

"The high duty will bring huge losses to these rural exporters whose market share will shrink in the US," Zhou said.

"It's clear that the trade dispute between China and the US is heating up, as even garlic, a small part of Sino-US trade, has been continually levied at a high rate," Zhou said.

Data from the chamber shows that garlic accounted for 3.4 percent of Sino-US agricultural trade last year.

Amid growing demand, the US has become the second-largest importer of Chinese garlic, following Indonesia.

Chinese garlic accounts for about 90 percent of US garlic imports, and it accounts for more than half of the bulbs consumed in the nation, according to Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, California, the largest garlic producer in the US.

Last year, China exported 115,385 tons of garlic to the US, an increase of 1.3 percent year-on-year. These exports were worth $225.78 million, declining 2.3 percent year-on-year, according to the chamber data.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, Chinese garlic was priced at $1,948.2 per ton in North America last year, 43 percent higher than the average global export price of Chinese garlic.

In January, US President Barack Obama announced the creation of a new trade enforcement unit that will be tasked with investigating trade practices in countries "like China".

The US has launched a series of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against Chinese exports. In February, the US Department of Commerce decided to continue its investigation of imports of utility scale wind towers from China, and decided in March to maintain anti-dumping duties on Chinese silicon metal.