EU starts dumping probe of Chinese candles and steel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union trade inspectors have launched investigations into whether imports from China of candles and some steel products are being dumped, raising the prospect of further trade tensions within the bloc.

European candle makers, from Germany, the Netherlands and other countries, complained to the European Commission in January that they were being damaged by illegal pricing by Chinese rivals, accusing them of getting unfair export aid.

“Having determined ... that there is sufficient evidence to justify the initiation of a proceeding, the Commission hereby initiates an investigation,” a notice in the EU’s Official Journal said on Saturday.

The journal also announced the launch of an anti-dumping investigation into imports from China of steel wire and wire strands used in the construction industry, after complaints by producers in countries including Spain and the Netherlands.

A growing number of European manufacturers have sought to fend off what they consider to be unfair competition from China with EU anti-dumping duties.

European trade chief Peter Mandelson has accused China of doing too little to rein in its snowballing trade surplus.

The Commission recently launched two separate investigations into imports of Chinese steel after European steelmakers complained of dumping by the Asian export powerhouse.

China has denied the allegations of dumping.

It is not just Beijing which is worried by the prospect of new, punitive duties being applied to imports from China.

European retailers such as Sweden’s Ikea fear an increase in the price of candles, which they import in large volumes from China, and engineering and shipbuilding companies that consume steel oppose duties on their imports.

EU governments have split in recent years over whether to impose duties on imports such as shoes and energy-saving light bulbs from China and other Asian countries, and Mandelson has put on hold his plans to reform the EU’s anti-dumping rules.

The launch of an anti-dumping investigation by the Commission may lead to the imposition of provisional duties within nine months.

Reporting by Dale Hudson; Editing by William Schomberg and Catherine Evans