China commerce minister chastises US after WTO victory

China's Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng delivers a speech at a China-Britain Business Council dinner in London June 17, 2014.

BEIJING - China's commerce minister hit out at the United States on Thursday, urging it not to be a "rule-breaker" after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) handed Beijing initial victory in a trade dispute.

Gao Hucheng's comments came after a panel at the Switzerland-based body on Monday ruled Washington was wrong to slap punitive duties on a host of Chinese goods from paper to wind turbines.

"I strongly urge the US to look squarely at the fact of the long-term, systematic violation of WTO rules in its legislation and practices in the trade remedy area," Gao said in a statement.

He called on Washington "to honestly execute the ruling of the WTO trade dispute settlement body, to correct in a timely and comprehensive manner its wrongdoings of abusively using trade remedy measures... and to not become a negative example of a rule-breaker".

The US imposed extra import tariffs on several products - including paper, steel, tyres, magnets, chemicals, kitchen fittings, flooring and wind turbines - arguing they were being "dumped" on its market at below-cost prices to help Chinese companies snap up business.

But the WTO dispute settlement panel, made up of independent trade and legal experts, said the duties were "inconsistent" with global rules.

"We recommend that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations," it added.

China filed a complaint to the WTO over the measures in 2012. Beijing has said the annual export value of the affected products was around $7.2 billion.

The WTO polices global trade accords in an effort to provide its 160 member economies with a level playing field.

China, the world's largest trader in goods and the second-largest economy after the United States, became a member in December 2001.

Washington has the right to appeal against the ruling, which was the first in the case. The WTO disputes settlement process can last for years, with appeals, counter-appeals and compliance assessments.