Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Trade rift could hurt U.S. imports

Trade rift could hurt U.S. imports
By Kristopher Hanson, Staff writer

LONG BEACH - A growing U.S.-China trade rift over coated paper exports to America has direct implications for Southern California seaports, where much of the paper is shipped.
Exporters of Chinese coated paper, accused by U.S. manufacturers of receiving unfair subsidies in their homeland, are now facing significant duties on exports to the United States following a March 30 ruling by the Department of Commerce.

The decision, which affects the rapidly increasing volumes of coated free sheet paper moving through the ports of Long Beach-Los Angeles, comes in the wake of an anti-dumping investigation by the Commerce Department.

The investigation found that Chinese paper producers were receiving unfair government subsidies averaging 18.16 percent, artificially pushing down prices on the world market and undercutting American manufacturers.

Commerce officials, who are also looking into Indonesian and Korean paper producers, will issue their final ruling later this year.

"The China of today is not the China of years ago," said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who visited the Port of Long Beach in January to discuss U.S. efforts to level the trade imbalance with China. "Just as China

has evolved, so has the range of our tools to make sure Americans are treated fairly."
At the Port of Los Angeles, for example, volumes of coated paper imports, much of it from China and a few smaller Asian nations, have jumped 317 percent since 2002. Nationally, Chinese coated paper imports were up more than 800 percent between 2004 and 2006, according to Jennifer Scoggins at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.
At the Port of Long Beach, the value of coated paper imports from China grew to $19 million in 2005, from $6 million in 2004. Numbers for 2006 were not available.

Coated paper is used to print yearbooks, annual reports, magazines, glossy newsletters, wall calendars and catalogs, among other publications.

In October, U.S. paper producer NewPage Corporation of Ohio filed an inquiry with the Commerce Department seeking to apply anti-subsidy laws to China, which had previously been exempt from such duties because of its status as a "non-market" economy, Scoggins said.
If upheld by the Commerce Department, the ruling requires U.S. Customs officials to collect an undetermined cash deposit or bond on coated free paper imports beginning as early as June.
The announcement comes amid increasing U.S. scrutiny of China's rapidly growing, export-dependent economy, which some believe is being unfairly fueled through an artificially deflated currency and generous government subsidies.

It's unclear how the potential tariffs will affect paper trade through the Long Beach-Los Angeles port complex, the nation's largest and the chief U.S. destination for Asian exports.
Authorities at both ports said that while such imports have been growing rapidly in recent years, they still represent a small fraction of total throughput.

The Port of LA imported more than 400,000 metric tons of coated paper from several countries in 2006, which equals a 317 percent increase from 2002, said Port of Los Angeles spokeswoman Theresa Adams-Lopez.

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