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On August 8, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) issued a statement expressing concern at South Africa's initiation, on July 29, of a World Trade Organization (WTO) safeguard investigation into certain cold-rolled steel products.
The investigation was lodged by the South African Iron and Steel Institute. Its claim, which was accepted by the WTO, is that cold-rolled steel products are being imported into the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) market – including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland – in such increasing quantities, both in absolute terms and relative to production in SACU, as to be causing serious injury to the industry in SACU.
The period of investigation for the purposes of determining the allegation of serious injury is January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2015. SACU manufacturers allege that they have suffered serious injury in the form of a decline in sales volumes, output, market share, productivity, utilization of capacity, and employment.
The MOC statement expressed concern over the effect that the safeguard investigation will have on bilateral trade between China and South Africa. The Ministry stressed that China "attaches great importance to both communication and cooperation between trade authorities in the field of trade remedies, … [and] hoped that South Africa will act in accordance with WTO rules in a fair, equitable, and transparent manner, and protect the rights of Chinese enterprises."
It confirmed that the Chinese government will closely follow the progress of the investigation and maintain communications with South Africa. It advocated that "the two sides should strengthen dialogue and cooperation, tide over the difficulties, and seek a proper solution."
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