China urges U.S. to act 'prudently' in aluminum foil dispute

An employee looks at an aluminium foil roll being lifted at a plant in Binzhou, Shandong province, China May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China urged the U.S. government on Thursday to act “prudently” to avoid damaging economic relations between the two countries, in a strongly worded response to Washington’s preliminary decision to slap anti-dumping duties on Chinese aluminum foil.

In a statement posted on its Wechat account, the Ministry of Commerce said the United States had ignored offers of cooperation from the government and Chinese companies in making its ruling this week.

The statement, attributed to Wang Hejun, head of the Commerce Ministry’s trade remedy and investigation bureau, was more strongly worded than typical responses to trade disputes with the United States.

The statement said there were no grounds to accuse China’s downstream aluminum companies of benefiting from subsidies.

Washington has previously made similar claims about China’s banking sector, unreasonably labeling Chinese commercial banks as public institutions, the statement also said.

The Wechat post followed news on Wednesday that China’s top foil producers are preparing to launch a legal challenge to a U.S. Commerce Department ruling that would slap antidumping duties of 16.56 percent to 80.97 percent on Chinese aluminum foil imports.

China’s government said it is highly concerned about the action the United States is taking to provide relief to its aluminum industry.

Washington is also investigating whether to curb aluminum imports from China under the rarely used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows restrictions on imports for reasons of national security.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is conducting a separate investigation into steel imports from China.

Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Josephine Mason and Tom Hogue