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BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The European Union imposed on Saturday import duties of up to 85 percent on screws and bolts from China, a move likely to trigger retaliatory action by Beijing at the World Trade Organisation.
The tariffs affect up to 200 Chinese companies selling components widely used for cars, white goods and machinery in the EU and are worth some 575 million euros ($739 million) a year.
Chinese manufacturers, anticipating the duties, have asked Beijing to take the EU to the WTO, the global trade watchdog, over the matter. They say Brussels is protecting European companies amid the worst global economic slowdown in 80 years.
But the European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the 27-nation bloc, rejected the allegation.
“We reject strongly the implication from various sources quoted in the press that any anti-dumping measures in this case would be protectionist and not based on fact,” the Commission said in a statement to Reuters.
“The Commission rejects any notion that anti-dumping measures are used to protect European companies from fair competition.”
“Anti-dumping is about fighting unfair trade, and the Commission will continue to address unfair trade where we find it, based on the facts.”
International rules allow countries to impose extra duties on goods that are "dumped" -- imported at prices below what is paid in their home market -- if the dumping injures businesses in the importing country. The Jiaxing Association of Iron and Steel Fastener Companies, representing some 20 percent of fastener exports, said it "is particularly unhappy" that two Chinese units of two European companies -- Italy's Agrati and Celo CELO.BC of Spain -- will be exempt from the duties.
Trade disputes between Brussels and Beijing have been on the rise since the EU’s trade deficit with China ballooned, hitting 160 billion euros last year. In recent months the EU has imposed additional tariffs on Chinese imports ranging from shoes to steel wire rods. EU trade experts say Chinese exporters get an unfair edge from suspected subsidies in China’s steel industry that give them cheap raw materials. (Editing by Tim Pearce)
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