The European Commission is investigating allegations that plastic bag makers from China, Malaysia and Thailand are dumping their products into the European Union, and the EC could impose tariffs on imports from those three countries.
A coalition of 35 European companies allege in EC filings that subsidized or dumped imports from those countries increased 50 percent from 2000-04, growing to about a quarter of the EU market and forcing domestic producers to cut at least 308 million pounds of capacity.
``Unfairly priced imports from China, Malaysia and Thailand are causing severe harm to our industry,'' said John Persenda, president of the European Federation of Plastic Films Producers (PlastEuroFilm), and director of Paris bag maker SP Metal SA. ``Numerous EU producers have already been forced out of business. Others have abandoned Europe and moved their jobs and facilities to Asia.''
The European companies allege that bags are dumped at margins of more than 70 percent.
A lawyer representing China's bag makers denied the dumping allegation, and said companies in China will fight the petition.
Xiang Dong, a lawyer with Beijing-based Allbright law office, said she did not read the hundreds of pages of the EU complaint.
``But we have plenty of evidence that we are not dumping underpriced bags,'' Xiang said.
Chinese local media had predicted that Chinese companies would be discouraged from reacting to anti-dumping complaints after losing a similar case with the United States last year. But Xiang said more than 80 companies have returned the investigation questionnaire.
``The companies that I'm representing are only a slim share of the total,'' she said. This EU case involves bags that were sold for 270 million euros ($336 million) last year, she added.
The EU case may affect more Chinese exporters than the U.S. case, according to Xiang. EU is targeting virtually all Chinese plastic sacks and bags, rather than one type of product, she said.
The European companies bringing the complaint represent about 25 percent of EC production.
Paris-based PlastEuroFilm and the Brussels, Belgium-based European Plastics Converters trade association joined them in the complaint.
The EC will investigate several types of polyethylene bags, including retail, freezer, refuse and produce bags, but not woven sacks or heavy bags greater than 100 microns thick.
Under EC rules, the details of trade complaints are limited to the parties involved, and the lawyer for the European companies declined to release a copy of the petition. Formally, they are two separate petitions: an anti-dumping complaint against all three countries and an anti-subsidy complaint against Malaysia and Thailand.
Provisional duties could be imposed within nine months, and a final decision is expected within 15 months.
The EC's investigation follows a U.S. government decision last year to put tariffs on PE retail bags from the three countries.