Beijing: China has formally challenged US countervailing duties over 22 categories of Chinese products, accusing Washington of abusing World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and infringing the legitimate rights of Chinese firms.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said it has requested WTO consultations, the first stage of a formal dispute settlement, with the US over a case involving products worth USD 7.29 billion.

In its countervailing duty investigations over the Chinese imports in question, US has acted inconsistently with WTO rules in many aspects -- including its application of the term of public bodies, specificity, facts available and its considering export restriction measures as subsidies, the Ministry said in a statement.

The WTO has already ruled against US on these grounds in the past, but the world's biggest economy has continued to follow the wrong path in the investigations and has not resolved the issues despite China's strong concerns, it said.

"The US behaviour abused trade remedy practices and harmed the legal rights and interests of Chinese companies... The Chinese government opposes abuse of WTO rules and trade protectionism explicitly and consistently," the ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said in the statement.

"We hope that, through active dialogue and communication under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, the United States can correct its long-time wrong behavior in countervailing duty investigations, abide by WTO rules and address our concerns properly," Shen said.

If consultations fail to produce a solution, China may request a WTO panel ruling on the case. The US has initiated almost 30 anti-dumping and countervailing duty probes over Chinese imports in the past five years.

China successfully challenged four of them at the WTO in March, 2011. China's move came amid worsening clashes between the two countries over solar products, which arose last year when a group of US solar panel manufacturers filed a formal complaint to the Department of Commerce.

US producers said China-made panels were being sold at extremely low prices because of hefty government subsidies, but Chinese makers argued their commercial success resulted from fair competition.

In the latest round of China probes, the US government announced a preliminary decision in March to impose countervailing duties at rates ranging from 2.9 percent to 4. 73 percent on crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.

In another preliminary decision last week, the US Commerce Department announced anti-dumping duties over Chinese solar cells at rates from 31.14 percent to 249.96 percent. In those two cases, the United States again behaved wrongly, Shen commented.

(Agencies)

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