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Political pressures have led the U.S. Department of Commerce to launch countervailing duty investigations against China while insisting that it cannot use market information from within China to measure the alleged subsidies because China is a non-market economy. That political reality contravenes the principles embodied in U.S. law. Subsidies are found and measured according to the market distortion they cause. Where there is no market, there can be no market distortion. It is not possible for China to have developed markets sufficiently to be subject to subsidies allegations and investigations, yet have no markets by which to ascertain and measure the subsidies.

The problem that pervades the United States’ countervailing duty investigations of China is an attitude, which has at least three manifestations.

  1. There is the Department’s confusion of methodologies used in dumping and countervailing duty investigations. In dumping cases involving non-market economies, the law expressly allows the Department to seek out surrogate values from other countries. In theory, at least, this exercise is fairly precise: the cost of a nail in India might substitute for the cost of the same nail in China. The Department, however, has taken to utilizing this methodology in countervailing duty cases where the law does not authorize it and the measurements are not remotely so precise.The consequence is that the Department ignores prevailing market conditions within China in favor of data from hand-selected countries to determine the existence and amount of a countervailable subsidy in China. The Department is having the market issue both ways: China is enough of a market economy for government subsidies to cause distortions, but not enough of one – in any sector – to resort to prices in China that are less likely to show the existence of a subsidy.
  2. There is a lack of recognition and appreciation of China’s radical transition to a market economy. The People’s Republic is privatizing, and creating competition, at a feverish pace. Its central planning is indicative and no longer directive; its collectives are giving way to individual entrepreneurs and its controls are yielding to markets. The Department verified that state-owned enterprises are operating autonomously, for profit, without government direction. They are seen as benefiting the people collectively instead of a small group of private owners, but contrary to the Department’s preconceived notions, that collective benefit makes them no less market-driven than privately-owned entities. Many of the changes in China’s economy are taking place in weeks and months, not years or decades. Countervailable subsidy allegations of a practice in June quickly become outdated as the practice disappears in September. The United States’ failure to recognize and appreciate these changes is a bad policy toward China because it carries all the wrong incentives: offsetting programs that have been abolished or expired creates liabilities that discourage abandoning the programs, or beg for replacements. It teaches all the wrong lessons about opening markets, because what it really communicates is that the United States is closing its own.
  3. There is the allegation that officials of the People’s Republic of China do not always cooperate with the Department or do all they could to answer questions and assist with the Department in its investigation. The allegation is worse than undiplomatic. It violates the comity of nations by refusing to respect the acts of foreign sovereigns within their own jurisdictions. By presuming that China must collect and have information that, within its own jurisdiction it says it does not collect and does not have the Department violates a principle respected formally by the United States since the Supreme Court first pronounced on it in 1797. This third manifestation of attitude – the willingness to deny the veracity of official testimony without contrary information or evidence – tarnishes the Department’s investigations. As a matter of comity, the Department owes good faith respect to Chinese officials as it would expect them to respect officials of the Department.

Comity is not merely an element of diplomacy. It is an obligation of international practice and a legitimate expectation of our friendly trading partners. Chinese officials are entitled to be believed absent strong evidence to the contrary. The Department breaches its trust when it makes decisions based on nothing more than hostile beliefs. Insisting something must exist when told it doesn’t, and having no evidence to the contrary, is nothing more than a hostile belief. What is at stake is much more than the fate of any particular exported product. What is at stake is the good faith of American trade relations with China.

Hostile attitudes ought not to interfere with respect for the law and sound policy. In this instance, there is an additional concern. Much of the American objection to alleged Chinese subsidies could now be said, at least since September 15, 2008, about the United States. It probably has been necessary to combat global rececession with massive government economic interventions, but it has made much more of the American economy dependent on government support. We analyzed those troubling contradictions in formal comments filed with the United States Trade Representative in January 2008 on Applying the CVD Laws to China.
 

 

 

虽然美国尚未承认中国的市场经济地位,但是美国国内巨大的政治压力迫使美国商务部针对中国产品展开了一系列反补贴调查。美国商务部的做法违背了规范世界贸易体系的原则——世贸组织章程。只有当政府补助对市场健康发展造成负面影响时,才能证明不正当政府补助的存在;同时政府补助对市场发展的影响程度也是衡量反补贴的标准。 所以美国政府这种一方面说中国的市场程度已经发展到一定程度因而成为反补贴调查的对象,另一方面又说中国国内不存在可以用来判断、衡量不正当补助的市场指标的做法是完全站不住脚的。

在针对中国产品展开的反补贴调查中,美国政府的立场问题影响了所有反补贴调查的顺利进行。在一些案件中这一问题比较突出,在另一些案件中要稍许好一些。我们暂且把这一立场问题称为“态度问题”。美国商务部的“态度问题”可以简单概括为三个层面。

首先,美国商务部将反补贴和反倾销调查的调查方法混为一谈。在针对非市场经济体展开的反倾销调查中,美国法律允许美国商务部采用第三国经济数据来计算反倾销税税率。至少从理论上来讲这种计算方法是比较精确的:在印度生产一个铁钉的成本应当和在中国生产一个铁钉的成本相当。但是美国商务部居然在反补贴调查中也使用这种计算方式,这是美国法律所不允许的,同时也是非常不精确的。

美国商务部采取这一做法的结果是它对中国的市场行情视而不见,却用精心挑选的第三替代国的数据来裁定中国政府是否提供了不正当补助、及反补贴税率。由此可见美国商务部充分利用市场经济这一议题对中国采取双重歧视:一方面认为中国已存在市场经济体系,因而政府补助影响了市场健康发展;另一方面又认为无论在哪一领域,中国的市场经济体系都不够发达,所以要用第三替代国的数据来计算反补贴税率。

“态度问题”的第二个层面是不承认、不充分肯定中国从政府主导向市场经济转变过程中取得的巨大成绩。中国正以极快的步伐从计划经济向市场经济转变,这同时刺激了市场竞争。原有的中央计划不再具有指令性特征,而是转变成为远景方向和目标;中国私营企业取代了公有性企业,在经济生活中扮演更重要的角色;政府逐渐让位于市场,让市场在经济生活中扮演更重要的角色。美国商务部承认,在核查中他们看到中国的国有企业是独立运作的、把追求经济效益放在首位、不再接受政府指令。国有企业的存在和运作是为了能让大多数人、而不是少数私营企业所有者受益。与美国商务部固有的印象完全相反,代表公众利益的企业能和私营企业一样对市场信号迅速做出反应。

腾飞的中国经济往往在短短几个星期、几个月时间内就会发生显著变化,而不是用几年或几十年的时间。所以六月提出的反补贴指控可能在九月就会变得过时,因为这项政府补助可能已经不存在了。美国政府往往忽视、或是没有充分认可中国的这些变化,仍一意孤行、针对这些稍纵即逝的项目采取贸易限制和保护措施。 这种针对中国的错误政策只会带来负面效应:鼓励中国维持这些补助,或用其他政府项目来取代这些已取消、或是即将失效的项目。同时,美国政府的这一做法非但没有起到开放市场的示范作用,反而告诉她的贸易伙伴:美国正在关闭市场。

美国商务部的“态度问题”的第三个层面是指责中国政府官员不与调查官员合作、不尽全力回答调查问卷、不协助美国商务部调查。这种指控不仅仅是不懂外交艺术的表现,同时还带来更严重的后果。这种指控违背了国家间应相互尊重的原则,因为指控方没有做到尊重一个主权国家在自己领土内决策的权力。美国商务部假定中国政府应当收集、而且一定拥有国内的某些信息,全然不顾事实上中国政府并未收集也没有这些信息。这种做法违背了美国政府理应遵守的、美国最高法院早在1797年就宣布的国家间相互尊重的原则。 因此,“态度问题”的第三个层面——在没有相左信息或证据的情况下,拒绝中国政府官员参与核查并作证的行为——给美国商务的核查工作蒙上了阴影。根据国家间相互尊重的原则,既然美国商务部官员期待得到中国官员的尊重,那么他们也应给予中国政府官员相应的尊重。

相互尊重不仅仅是外交要素之一,同时也是国际交往中各个国家都应承担的义务,是友好贸易伙伴之间最基本的期待之一。中国官员理应被信任。当美国商务部官员从敌视的、没有根据的信念出发采取某一行动的时候,他们就破坏了这种信任。当被告知某一事物并不存在,且没有证据的情况下,仍然坚持己见、认为这一事物一定存在,这就是敌视。这时,面临危机的就不仅仅是某一出口产品,而是中美两大贸易伙伴间的诚信了。

 

(翻译:朱晶)