The European Commission extended on January 8 its 1991 anti-dumping measures on Chinese disposable lighters to Taiwan, after an investigation which found that the Chinese lighters were simply being passed through Taiwan to avoid the original EU duties. The probe also dealt with another scam, which involved attaching a useless valve to the lighters so they fell under the 'non-disposable' category, thus avoiding the duty.

The EU's 1991 duties on Chinese gas-filled, non-refillable pocket flint lighters were originally set at 16.9%, but in 1995, they were altered to ECU 0.065 per unit: these measures have now been extended to Taiwan. The measure has already been backed by the EU's Anti-Dumping Advisory Committee, with only the United Kingdom and Sweden opposing the measures. The latest investigation was sparked when the Commission received a complaint in March from the European Federation of Lighter Manufacturers (EFLM) on behalf of Bic in France, Spain's Flamagas and Tokai Seiki based in the German city of M"nchengladbach. It actually included Macao and Hong Kong but found that the imports involved were not large enough to justify extending the measures to them too. The Regulation also says that lighters with a frontier price of more than ECU 0.15 per unit will be exempt from the duties provided they are accompanied by a valid receipt.

The Commission backed the EFLM claim that exporters shipped the lighters through Taiwan. According to the EU's statistical agency, Eurostat, imports of rechargeable lighters from China have risen dramatically in recent years, surging from 22.8 million units in 1994 (7.6% of the EU market) to 144 million in 1997 (44.2% of the market). However, non-rechargeable lighters have seen their export volume crash from 133.5 million to 6.8 million over the same period. Prices of rechargeable lighters have also plummeted, from ECU 0.37 in 1993, to ECU 0.19 in 1994 and ECU 0.10 in 1997. Eurostat put a figure of ECU 0.092 on the average import price...

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