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This article is co-authored by Elliot J. Feldman and John J. Burke.

 Until now, China has preferred the WTO to resolve trade disputes. Of a dozen countervailing duty cases brought against Chinese products, all but one (the coated free sheet paper case failed at the International Trade Commission) went adversely before U.S. agencies and the Government of China challenged none of these final agency determinations in U.S. courts. Instead, China consolidated four of them and complained at the WTO.

We have indicated before our doubts about the wisdom of this choice (see our blog article titled WTO Challenges: Not Always A Panacea For Respondents In Trade Litigation). Now, there is new evidence. In GPX International Tire Corporation v. United States, a case brought before the United States Court of International Trade (“CIT”) by private parties (not the Government of China), Chief Judge Jane Restani found an important flaw in the procedures of the United States Department of Commerce that could return substantial sums of money to importers of Chinese goods and alter the way trade remedy actions are brought and analyzed against China. Although this victory for Chinese interests is less than suggested by its advocates and some in the trade press, it is significant nonetheless and comes at an important time. The Chinese Government has achieved nothing comparable in its efforts at the WTO.

Judge Restani’s decision does not preclude the Department of Commerce from initiating countervailing duty investigations against China or any other non-market economy. In fact, its impact is more likely to be seen in the conduct of antidumping cases against China. Judge Restani held that, when Commerce chooses to apply the countervailing duty law to China with respect to the same products for which it also is calculating antidumping duties, using the non-market economy methodology, Commerce must alter its antidumping calculations to avoid counting the same subsidy twice. She noted that Commerce would have to accomplish this task within the confines of the non-market economy provisions of the antidumping law. She remanded to Commerce to find some way to resolve this problem.

The easiest way for Commerce to resolve the double counting problem, as strongly hinted by Judge Restani, would be to resume its old practice of more than twenty years of not applying the countervailing duty laws to non-market economies. She noted that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the 1986 case, Georgetown Steel, held that Commerce was not required to apply the countervailing duty laws to non-market economies. Many legal commentators had interpreted the Georgetown Steel case as prohibiting the use of countervailing duty laws to non-market economies. Judge Restani acknowledged that interpretation, but held that Georgetown Steel was ambiguous and she herself found the statute ambiguous. Therefore, she deferred to Commerce’s interpretation as "not unreasonable."

Judge Restani implicitly urged Commerce to abandon its adventure in applying the countervailing duty law to non-market economies, but nonetheless gave Commerce the option of altering its antidumping methodologies to prevent double counting. Given all of the political capital the Commerce Department has now invested in applying the countervailing duty laws to China, we expect Commerce will work hard to find a way to resolve this issue through changes in its antidumping calculations, without returning to the conventional interpretation of Georgetown Steel.

Commerce could separate antidumping from countervailing duty cases. It could decline to initiate them together against the same product. The cost of filing may go up for petitioners, but they might be able to preserve the ability to claim both subsidies and dumping. They could, alternatively, not include alleged subsidies in the calculation of cost of production for dumping, and instead allege all subsidies together in the separate countervailing duty petition. There would be no double-counting, but alleged subsidies would not escape scrutiny.

Judge Restani does not exclude these possibilities. To the contrary, she expressly authorizes as “reasonable” petitions alleging subsidies in non-market economies. She denies overturning Georgetown Steel, but she certainly overturns the popular understanding of it for the last two decades.

Judge Restani also overturned Commerce’s automatic use of December 11, 2000, the date China joined the WTO, as the cut-off date for determining whether a subsidy could be calculated in China. Commerce had been countervailing alleged subsidies conferred after that date, but refusing to investigate any allegations of subsidies conferred before that date. Some of the Chinese companies argued that Commerce could not go back any earlier than the date in 1997 when it announced it would apply the CVD law to China. The U.S. producers argued that there should be no cut-off date. Judge Restani ruled that Commerce must decide how far back to go based on the facts of each subsidy allegation. The bottom line for the Chinese Government and Chinese companies is that they now have to be prepared to defend against subsidy allegations reaching back into the 1990s, a serious setback from core arguments advanced by some counsel for China in the CVD cases.

Judge Restani, Chief Judge of the CIT, has long been a rigorous, thoughtful judge willing to reject the arguments of the United States Government and prepared to interpret the law and international agreements as favoring free trade. However, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit historically has not been unwilling to overturn her. Occasionally, when she thinks a legal issue especially important and perhaps difficult, she assembles a three-judge panel of the court to hear a case. Three-judge panels have not been overturned in the last twenty years. Consequently, this decision is vulnerable to appeal.

Despite the celebration of a Chinese victory, assuming an unsuccessful appeal, there may be many ways around the rejection of double-counting, leaving China with less of a legal victory than it seems now to think. Nonetheless, although China lost the key legal principle at issue in the case – whether subsidy actions can be brought against non-market economies – it won a point that should mean the return of monies to importers of record in the United States and should complicate life for petitioners who were making the simultaneous filing of antidumping and countervailing duty petitions routine. As narrow as that victory may be, it is substantially more than anything gained to date at the WTO, and more than anything likely to be possible at the WTO as to Chinese exposure to CVD petitions.  It ought  to convey several lessons one of which is that U.S. courts are not necessarily inhospitable to Chinese appeals.  Another ought  to be, like the Chinese proverb, that the road is long, and requires many steps.  This appeal should be the first, not the last, on a journey to justify the practices of the Chinese economy.
 

本文由 Elliot J. Feldman 和 John J. Burke 合著。

        迄今为止,中国仍偏爱通过世贸组织解决贸易争端。在十二个针对中国产品展开的反补贴案中,中方只在一个案件中赢得调查胜利(美国国际贸易委员会否决了铜版纸一案),但是中国政府放弃了在美国法庭上诉这些终审裁决的机会。相反,中国把四个案件整合在一起,向世贸组织递交了申诉

        在先前的文章中,我们已经对这种做法表示怀疑(见博文《世贸组织争端解决机制 —-不是贸易纠纷应诉方的万能药》)。现在,又有新证据证明我们的论点。在美国国际贸易法庭受理的GPX International Tire Corporation v. United States 一案中,中国企业(而非中国政府)提出上诉,首席法官Jane Restani裁定美国商务部在调查过程有重大疏漏,这一裁定可帮助进口商拿回多缴的惩罚性关税,同时将改变针对中国的贸易补偿行动。虽然中方这一胜利的意义略小于媒体以及中方律师强调的意义,但仍然是关键时刻取得的显著胜利。中国政府至今尚未在世贸组织取得可以和这一案件相媲美的成就。

        Restani法官的裁决并未禁止美国商务部针对中国及其他非市场经济体展开反补贴调查。事实上,这一案件的意义将主要表现在针对中国产品展开的反倾销调查中。Restani法官裁定:如果美国商务部决定针对面临反倾销调查、且美国商务部在计算反倾销税率时使用非市场经济体计算方法的中国产品展开反补贴调查时,美国商务部必须改变计算反倾销税率的方法以避免在反补贴调查中双重征税。她指出美国商务部应在反补贴法非市场经济体条款管辖范围内完成这一任务。她要求美国商务部找到解决这一问题的途径。

        对于美国商务而言,就如Restani法官建议,解决双重征税最简单的方法是重新采用二十多年来沿用的老方法:不向非市场经济体展开反补贴调查。她指出联邦法院上诉庭在1986年乔治城钢铁案中裁定美国商务部无需针对非市场经济体使用反补贴税。许多法律评论家将乔治城钢铁案解释为禁止向非市场经济体使用反补贴法。Restani法官提到这一解释,但是她认为乔治城钢铁案裁决在这一点上模棱两可,她自己也认为这一法律条文模棱两可。因此,她并不认为美国商务部的诠释“毫无依据”。

        Restani法官并未明确要求美国商务部放弃向非市场经济体采用反补贴法,而是给予美国商务部修改反倾销税率计算方法的选择以避免双重征税。目前美国商务部在针对中国展开的反补贴调查领域投入巨大政治资本,我们预计商务部会极具创意地、非常辛苦地寻找途径修改反倾销税率计算方法、以此解决这一法律挑战,而不必重新回到对乔治城钢铁案的传统解释

        美国商务部也可以将反倾销调查和反补贴调查分开处理。它可放弃针对同一产品同时展开反补贴和反倾销调查。这可能增加申诉方的费用,但同时申诉方也可以保留申请展开反补贴、反倾销调查的权利。或者,他们可选择将受指控的补贴排除在反倾销调查中的成本计算之外。这样,重复计算不存在,但是受指控的补贴项目仍将面临调查。

        Restani法官并没有排除这些可能性。恰恰相反,她明确允许“合理的”针对非市场经济国家的反补贴申诉书。她拒绝否决乔治城钢铁案,但是她否定了过去二十年里对这一案件最流行的理解。 

         Restani法官同时否决了美国商务部使用2000年12月11日——中国加入世贸组织这一天作为计算反补贴税率的起始日期。美国商务部对这一日期之后的补贴都展开调查并征收反补贴税率,但是拒绝调查这一日期前给予的补贴。一些中国企业提出美国商务部在1997年宣布将对中国使用反补贴法,因此此前的反补贴项目不必担心面临反补贴调查。但是美国生产商认为应该没有最早截止日期。Restani法官裁定美国商务部应根据每一反补贴指控的实际情况决定最早截止日期。这说明中国政府和中国企业现在应开始准备应对针对1990年代补贴项目的指控。对于代表中国参与反补贴应诉的律师来说,这是关于核心争端的严重倒退。

        作为美国国际贸易法庭的首席法官,Restani法官一直以来是一位严厉、思想深刻、愿意拒绝美国政府论点、准备从倾向自由贸易的角度诠释法律、国际协定的法官。但是从历史纪录来看,联邦上诉庭也曾驳回她的裁决。偶尔,当她认为一法律问题尤其重要、可能还颇有难度,她就与其他两位法官一起审理案件。三位法官的联合裁决在过去二十年里从未被驳回。所以,Restani法官的这一裁决可能面临上诉、且比较脆弱。

        在庆祝中国取得胜利之余,否决双重征税也带来其他许多问题使得中国取得的法律胜利显得并不辉煌。有关本案最关键的法律原则——是否可对非市场经济体展开反补贴调查,中国几乎全盘皆输,只有涉案美国进口商可拿回部分惩罚性关税,让同时递交反补贴、反倾销申诉的美国申诉方面临更多难题。虽然胜利并不显赫,但是这比在世贸组织取得的任何胜利都更具实际意义,而且比未来可能取的胜利更辉煌。 这一案件带来许多启示,其中之一就是美国法庭并非对中国上诉不友善。另一经验是,用中国典故; 路漫漫其修远兮,需要分步走。这一上诉是证明中国经济运作合理性的第一步,而不是最后一步。
 

(翻译:朱晶)