China-US Trade Frictions: China's steel sector wins in US Section 337 investigation
China's steel sector has won a major victory in a US trade investigation. The probe has been going on for the last two years. The win stops a proposed ban on Chinese steel exports to the US. Ran Ruixue, a lawyer representing a Chinese steel company in the case, tells our reporter Wu Guoxiu what the secret to winning the case was.
The final victory came until this March, when the US International Trade Commission decided to terminate the Section 337 investigation in China's steel products. Back to April 2016, the United States Steel Corporation filed a case with the U.S. International Trade Commission, claiming that Chinese steelmakers conspired to fix prices, stole trade secrets and circumvented duties with false labeling in filing a Section 337 petition. The case involved about 40 Chinese steel companies, including Baosteel, which Ms. Ran Ruixue and her firm represented.
RAN RUIXUE, PARTNER COVINTON & BURLING LLP "While fighting the stealing secrets claim, we spent massive energy to comb through Baosteel's independent research and development experience in car leaf spring production, over the last two decades, out of hundreds of thousands of pages of files."
Ran's firm is one of the law firms, both American and Chinese, that participated in the case. She says the anti-trust claim was the last to win for the Chinese steel sector and the most difficult one.
RAN RUIXUE, PARTNER COVINTON & BURLING LLP "The last time anti-trust claim happened in the ITC was in 1978 with Japan. Current ITC members and judges don't have experiences in that. While we won the preliminary ruling, the plaintiff demanded a review. We even had an open trial during the review, that was very rare. And we didn't get the decision after the review, until this March."
For the final decision on March 19th, the commission ruled that the plaintiff didn't prove it suffered antitrust injury, so it doesn't have the right to make the claim. The other two claims, stealing trade secrets and anti-circumvention was won against in February and October of 2017.
RAN RUIXUE, PARTNER COVINTON & BURLING LLP "The key to winning is China's steel sectors are firm and confident. They found the best lawyers and pleaded jointly. They are also professional and persistent, even when our first action against the anti-circumvention claim was rejected, and we started all over again to make proofs."
Section 337 of the U.S. trade allows the U.S. International Trade Commission to exclude imported goods that infringe upon U.S. intellectual property rights. China's Commerce Ministry says since 2016, the US has filed over forty 337 investigations against Chinese products. Ran's firm is also helping several other Chinese companies in such investigations.
WU GUOXIU BEIJING "The lawyer believes the unprecedented victory in this case by China's steel sector may prevent further use of Section 337 investigations as a tool for anti-trust claims. But she expects there will be more Section 337 filings in China-US trade disputes, saying that Chinese companies should stand firm. WU GUOXIU, CGTN, Beijing."