Brazil's ABPA hires two law firms to fight China chicken antidumping case

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A Brazilian association representing chicken and pork producers on Wednesday named two legal firms to fight an anti-dumping case made by China in August against Brazilian chicken imports that could last several years.

ABPA, as the association is known, said it hired MPA Trade Law, in Brazil, and Hylands Law, in China, to defend it in the case. The association also said each of the 27 companies involved in the proceedings would hire legal representation separately, without elaborating.

Brazilian food processors JBS SA and BRF SA appeared on the list of companies that China is going to investigate.

Arguing antidumping cases can be expensive, James Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, told Reuters during a recent industry event in São Paulo.

Each U.S. company involved in a similar Chinese antidumping probe spent at least $1 million in legal fees just to fight the original case against U.S. chicken imports, he said.

“And still China ruled against us. We appealed to the World Trade Organization and we prevailed and still China didn’t drop duties,” Sumner said.

Some six years later, Sumner said, the dumping duties against U.S. chicken imports into China are still in place.

In the probe targeting Brazil, China should make a final decision in a year, but a preliminary ruling could be unveiled as early as April 2018.

Brazilian producers have denied China’s anti-dumping claims, according to ABPA. The group added that the country’s food companies abided by all international trade rules.

“Brazilian chicken exports caused no injury in the local market,” ABPA said referring to China. It added that the Brazilians will elucidate all points raised by the Chinese in their complaint.

China’s anti-dumping investigation into imports of Brazilian broiler chicken is another blow for the South American country’s meat industry, threatening over $1 billion of exports annually.

It comes roughly five months after Brazil’s power house protein industry was tarnished by a domestic food safety probe that caused countries to temporarily ban Brazil’s meat.

No major export destination maintained bans, but the Brazilian investigation, which centers on whether food inspectors were bribed by certain companies to evade safety checks, is ongoing.

ABPA said Brazilian chicken exporters want to continue supplying the Chinese market.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio