by Tian Dongdong
BRUSSELS, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The negotiating team of the European Parliament and ministers of European Union (EU) states struck an informal agreement on new investigation methods for anti-dumping on Tuesday in Strasbourg, bringing fears that the pan-Europe body is trying to heighten its protectionism wall.
The informal agreement will be put to a vote in the International Trade Committee on Oct. 12 and by the full house at the November plenary session in Strasbourg. The EU is just a tiptoe away from a new anti-dumping wall.
According to a press release published on the Parliament's website, the EU Commission is to report in detail on the specific circumstances of exporting countries, focusing on "significant distortions" of prices and costs, and will also give clear guidance on what "distortions" means.
As a concept, "significant distortions" is stated neither in the anti-dumping nor the anti-subsidy rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Countries outside the EU feared that by legalizing this concept, the bloc is playing paronomasia with the world, especially with China, using "market distortion" to conceal its "surrogate country" approach.
In accordance with Article 15 of the accession protocol signed when China joined the WTO in 2001, the surrogate country approach expired on Dec. 11, 2016.
Some Chinese analysts believe that by adopting the "market distortion" scheme the EU is trying to kill three birds with one stone -- safeguard its reputation as free trader, fulfil obligations endowed by Article 15 while keeping its trump card-- the surrogate country approach.
The draft law also ensures that respect of international labor and environmental standards in the manufacture of products will be taken into consideration when deciding on anti-dumping measures, said the document.
There will be no additional burden of proof on EU companies in anti dumping cases, on top of the current procedure. Small and medium sized enterprises will get help to deal with procedures, said the release, apparently making it easier to launch antidumping measures while at the same time increasing the risk of frequent trade frictions.
"All parties involved, particularly trade unions, may give input to decisions on trade defense measures," it added.
Tuesday's draft law marked a major step-forward of EU's long-brewed plan to sharpen its trade defense weapons.
In November 2016, the European Commission proposed a non-exhaustive list of examples to be used to identify significant market distortions, unlocking its campaign to replace its "surrogate country" approach with "market distortion."
Following a discussion on June 20 this year, members of the European Parliament's Trade Committee made several key amendments for the Commission's proposed document, including taking into account an exporting country's fiscal, social, and environmental standards when assessing its trade practices.
The amendments were approved by 33 votes to three, with two abstentions.
Shortly after the approval, China urged the EU to abide by the WTO rules in conducting anti-dumping investigations against China.
"The amendment still uses the surrogate country approach in its anti-dumping investigations, which is discriminatory, unfair and against the WTO regulations," said Sun Jiwen, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce.
China is highly concerned with the process of the EU amendment and hopes the EU will fulfil its WTO obligations to manage bilateral trade friction and promote steady economic exchanges, Sun added.
In its July plenary session, the European parliament gave the green light to start talks with national governments on the new tougher European Union antidumping rules, paving the way for the approval of Tuesday's draft agreement.