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Mon Oct 12, 2020, 09:49 PM

U.S.-China Trade War Gets Wrapped Up in Twist-Ties

WASHINGTON—The U.S. has been fighting a trade war with China over broad economic terrain—agriculture, steel, electronics.

Newly entering the battlefront is a crucial American technology: the twist-tie.

The yuan’s artificially low value has let China price its ties below cost, contends Bedford Industries Inc. of Worthington, Minn., which says it developed the modern plastic twist-tie and wants the U.S. to impose duties on Chinese competition.

“We have been doing this for 50 years and have a really efficient process,” says Bedford President Jay Milbrandt . “It didn’t seem right to us that China could make twist-ties, ship it to the U.S., market it, all for a price where you can’t even buy the basic raw materials.”

Bedford’s wiry closures are all over the supermarket—around bags of bread, lettuce leaves, containers of coffee, potato packs—and in hardware stores holding power cords and reels of hose.

In June, Bedford filed suit with the International Trade Commission and Commerce Department, the first U.S. manufacturer to file such a case against Chinese imports since the Trump administration revised regulations this year and let companies seek tariffs against foreign competitors if they can show the products benefited from currency manipulation. Twist-tie tariffs would set a precedent, so trade experts are watching Bedford’s suit as a test case.

The Chinese government is contesting the case and has filed more than 3,000 pages of documents, arguing it is absurd to think Beijing would adjust its currency to corner the twist-tie market. Responding to queries about the case, the commercial office of the Chinese Embassy in Washington said in an email: “Taking undervalued currencies as a countervailable subsidy will bring a significant risk to the multilateral trading regime and the international monetary system.”


The family secured scores of patents, including for tags with bar codes to track produce to the field where it was grown and a tie used as the nose wire in face masks.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-china-trade-war-twist-ties-11602391181 (subscription)

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