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China urges U.S. not to abuse trade system for own advantage

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's commerce minister urged the United States on Thursday not to abuse the global trade system by imposing duties on Chinese goods to protect its own economy, following a rebuke to Washington by the World Trade Organization.

WTO judges said on Monday the United States broke its rules in imposing hefty duties on Chinese steel products, solar panels and a range of other goods that Washington argues enjoyed government subsidies.

In comments carried on the Trade Ministry's website following the WTO ruling, Chinese Trade Minister Gao Hucheng said his country would not sit idly by while the United States harmed the rights of Chinese companies.

"The misuse by the United States of trade measures to help (their) economy seriously harmed the legal rights and interests of Chinese companies. Not only is the Chinese government seriously concerned, it will not sit by and look on," Gao said.

The United States needed to properly look at how what it was doing contravened WTO rules and should correct its mistaken ways, he added.

They "should not become a negative model for breaking the rules", Gao said.

"Especially at this time that the global economy is slowly recovering, the U.S. side has an even greater responsibility to uphold the multilateral trade system and the rules, and oppose trade protectionism," he added.

In the $7.2-billion Chinese case, the panel found that Washington had overstepped the mark in justifying the so-called countervailing duties imposed as a response to what it saw as subsidies to exporting firms by China's government.

The United States is weighing its options after the ruling, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in response.

Trade is one of a number of sensitive points in relations between the world's two largest economies, which are also at odds over everything from human rights to the value of China's currency.

Gao said that both countries needed to work hard to ensure the healthy and stable development of trade and business ties.

"The trade and business relationship is both the ballast and the propeller of Sino-U.S. ties," he added.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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