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BRUSSELS, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The European Commission is investigating whether Chinese producers of aluminium foil are evading anti-dumping duties imposed by the European Union in 2009, it said on Tuesday.
The EU executive said there was evidence that tariffs imposed in 2009 were being circumvented by China exporting rolls of foil to Europe that were then converted into the product affected by the duties.
It said the new investigation was triggered by a complaint by four European producers, Symetal, Eurofoil Luxembourg, Alcomet, and Hydro Aluminium Rolled Products, part of Norsk Hydro.
Three years ago, the bloc imposed duties on rolls of aluminium foil 0.008-0.018 mm thick, no wider than 650 mm and weighing more than 10 kg, from China, Brazil and Armenia.
The EU duties ranged from 25.6 to 47.0 percent on aluminium foil rolls from China, which the Commission said was produced with raw aluminium available at state-controlled prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange.
Producers include companies such as Alcoa Bohai Aluminium Industries, a branch of global aluminium company Alcoa, and Shandong Loften Aluminium Foil, the Commission said in its official journal.
As Shanghai Futures Exchange physical deliveries can only take place in an approved warehouse in China, unlike with physical deliveries in other futures markets, this has the effect of making the price benefits only available to Chinese companies.
The Commission said it had been given evidence that after the anti-dumping duty had been imposed there had been "a significant change in the pattern of trade involving exports... without sufficient due cause or justification for such a change other than the imposition of the duty".
Avoidance of the duties was undermining the prices of EU producers, who were also being harmed by the volumes of the lower-priced imports, it said.
Europe's disputes with Beijing have grown in recent months, and Brussels brought its biggest ever trade case against Beijing in September after companies accused China of dumping solar panels in Europe.
The growing trade tension comes at a difficult time. Europe's economy is hardly growing and the continent is suffering from record unemployment, while China's much-faster growth is cooling. Both downturns raise the spectre of social instability.