UPDATE 2-U.S. wins car import duties trade case against China

Fri May 23, 2014 6:21pm EDT

(Adds comment from China in final paragraph)

WASHINGTON May 23 (Reuters) - The United States has won a trade dispute with China over duties slapped on U.S. exports of large cars and sport utility vehicles, the World Trade Organization said on Friday.

China, the second-biggest market for U.S. auto exports, in 2011 started levying punitive duties on vehicles with engines of 2.5 liters and above, in retaliation for U.S. trade policies. The duties have since expired.

China, which only joined the WTO in 2001, is the second most common target of U.S. disputes at the trade body after the European Union.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the duties affected $5.1 billion in U.S. auto exports in 2013, including popular models such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Buick Enclave and Cadillac Escalade. Total U.S. auto exports to China totaled $8.6 billion.

Although Froman said he was pleased China had dropped the duties, which ranged up to 21.5 percent, he said it was worrying the United States had brought, and won, three WTO cases against China over unfair import duties.

"We remain deeply concerned by the troubling pattern of China's misuse of anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures," Froman said at a news conference, flanked by Michigan lawmakers Sander Levin and Debbie Stabenow, whose state is home to U.S. car makers Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co.

China argued the duties were imposed because U.S. automakers had received U.S. government subsidies and dumped their vehicles into the Chinese market, harming China's auto industry.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has called on the USTR to file another complaint against China over cyber-spying, after the United States on Monday charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets.

Schumer, who represents New York state in Congress, said the actions breached a WTO agreement on intellectual property requiring countries to protect trade secrets.

Asked if the USTR was considering any action, a senior USTR official said the office always looked actively at problems around the world, but would not talk about potential actions.

A spokesman for China's Embassy in Washington noted that the WTO rejected some arguments by the United States and supported some of Beijing's. China also had reservations about some elements of the WTO decision, such as the calculation of the dumping margin, spokesman Geng Shuang said in an emailed statement. (Reporting by Krista Hughes, additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by G Crosse and; Paul Simao)