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The EU imposes tariffs on imports from China, Vietnam and Cuba, because it considers that they are not market economies. The World Trade Organisation allows importers to place extra duties on goods which are being ‘dumped’ on the world market - that is, being sold at a price which is below the price in the country of origin. These two issues came together at the beginning of 2009, when the EU decided to impose anti-dumping duties of up to 87 percent for the next five years on screws, nuts and bolts imported from China - but in mid-2009 China claimed to the WTO that the threshold price had been wrongly calculated, and that the tariff breaks international trade rules.

Over a year later, the WTO has finally reached a decision in China’s favour, saying that the tariffs must be removed - marking a victory for China in its first WTO dispute against the European Union. In a trade dispute between the two, China has imposed its own tariffs on imports from the EU. This story, reported by the BBC and China Daily amongst others, gives evidence for the economic theory that import tariffs tend to lead to retaliation and there is a net reduction in trade - and also for the practical economics which shows that, however sensible the theory may sound, in practice countries often make decisions which suit their own domestic purposes.

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