Retaliation by Beijing extends to bidet imports

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Retaliation by Beijing extends to bidet imports

China continues to widen its economic squeeze on Korea by blocking sales of toilet seat bidets, saying the manufacturers didn’t provide exact specifications in their manuals.

According to industry insiders on Wednesday, the Chinese government has disqualified 47 out of 106 imported automatic toilet seats from being sold in the country. Of the 47 products, 43 were made in Korea. The manufacturers included Samsung and Daelim.

Beijing is playing hardball with Korea economically because it objects to Seoul’s decision last July to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system from the United States.

It has stopped charter flights to Korea for tourism, banned Korean movies and dramas from being aired and blocked Korean artists from performing in China.

“It is hard to say for sure that the recent decision by the Chinese government was made to retaliate for the Korean government’s decision to deploy the U.S. missile system since they announced plans to strengthen their inspections of imported bidet and rice cooker products,” an industry insider who declined to be named said. “But it seems quite obvious that the Chinese government has started to toughen non-tariff barriers.”

On Wednesday, the Chinese government also released inspection results for imported air purifiers, and the models disqualified for sales were mostly made in the United States, followed by Canada and Taiwan.

Even though Chinese President Xi Jinping said he is a defender of globalization and free trade at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, it appears that the Chinese government has strengthened import regulations on Korean products.

At Davos, Xi said, “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”

The Chinese government is also looking into whether three Korean companies - LG Chem, Kolon Plastics and Korean Engineering Plastics - violated antidumping regulations. The companies’ combined market share for polyoxymethylene in China is 27 percent. Chinese manufacturers that compete with them have requested the government to conduct inspections.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said recent Chinese government moves suggest protectionist trade policies.

In December, China’s commerce ministry said antidumpting duties imposed on Korea-made optical fibers will be extended by five years. The Chinese government is reviewing whether to impose antidumping duties on polysilicon and electric steel sheets.

Officials from Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy have expressed concerns about the non-tariff barriers when they visited China but Beijing only said it will review them.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said China is one of the most open countries in the world, with investment from the United States increasing 52.6 percent year on year in 2016.

But foreign companies have a different view.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 81 percent of foreign companies operating in China don’t feel they are welcome there.

BY SHIN KYUNG-JIN [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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