U.S. lawmaker may pursue limited China bill

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 25, 2012 6:54 PM
U.S. lawmaker may pursue limited China bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An influential Republican lawmaker said on Wednesday he may pursue "narrowly targeted" legislation to ensure the Commerce Department can impose countervailing duties on subsidized imports from China and other "non-market economies."

"I am willing to consider targeted legislation that ensures our countervailing duty laws can be used to protect U.S. employers and workers from unfairly subsidized imports from countries like China," House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in a statement.

A recent U.S. court ruling struck down the Commerce Department's ability to apply to countervailing duties to non-market economies, saying that Congress needed to change the law for the department to do that.

Camp emphasized that any legislation to address the ruling "would have to be narrowly targeted ... and be able to pass the House and Senate without complications."

However, the prospect of the Republicans moving any China bill is likely to invite attempts by Democrats to attach a measure to address China's currency practices.

Last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill to pressure China on its currency, which many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say is undervalued and gives Chinese manufacturers an unfair price advantage.

But House Republican leaders have sat on the bill, which they said could start a damaging trade war.

Former President George W. Bush's administration, responding to pleas of domestic producers, changed longstanding policy to allow countervailing, or anti-subsidy, duties to be applied to goods from non-market economies.

Previously, the Commerce Department had taken the position it was too difficult to calculate subsidy levels in economies where the state plays a dominant role in setting prices.

However, U.S. industry groups persuaded the Bush administration that was no longer the case with China.

(Reporting By Doug Palmer; editing by Christopher Wilson)