China Faces Third EU Complaint at WTO Over Raw-Material Curbs

  • Europe seeks end to Chinese export restrictions on 11 products
  • Malmstroem spurred by two past EU victories at trade arbiter

The European Union took China to the World Trade Organization for the third time over the country’s export restrictions on raw materials, seeking to ensure a sufficient supply of inputs for goods ranging from computers and mobile phones to steel and paper.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, complained to the WTO about Chinese export duties and export quotas on 11 raw materials. They are graphite, cobalt, copper, lead, chromium, magnesia, talcum, tantalum, tin, antimony and indium.

“We cannot sit on our hands seeing our producers and consumers being hit by unfair trading practices,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said on Tuesday in Brussels. “These measures are against international trade rules.”

Europe has been emboldened by two previous victories over China at the WTO. The Geneva-based global trade arbiter ruled in 2012 against Chinese export restrictions on nine other raw materials -- bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorus and zinc -- and in 2014 against similar curbs on rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum.

China’s total annual exports of the raw materials covered by the latest case average around 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion), one-sixth of which goes to Europe, the commission said on Tuesday. Were China to remove its export duties on these goods, the EU would gain additional supplies worth about 19 million euros, according to the commission.

The EU complaint involves a request for formal consultations with China under the WTO’s dispute-settlement procedure. Should both sides fail to reach an agreement within 60 days, the commission could ask the WTO to set up a panel to rule on the legality of the Chinese export restrictions.

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