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Exporters Confront Rising Environmental Costs

GUANGZHOU, May 1 (Xinhua) — Chinese manufacturers have seen their costs for environmental protection rise, in many ways, since the government raised the standards over the past year.

Companies that were identified as violating environmental laws were barred from the Canton Fair, or the China Import and Export Fair, during a penalty period, said fair spokesman Xu Bing.

One such company was Jilin Fudun Timber Co., Ltd., a timber company, which was placed on a blacklist by environmental regulators last year.

The Canton Fair is the most important channel for Chinese exporters to expand overseas, so a ban means big losses.

China has conducted special campaigns against polluting companies since last year. And violators have lost more than just export opportunities: blacklisted firms find it difficult to get loans. The State Environmental Protection Administration, now the Ministry of Environmental Protection, along with the central bank and the Banking Regulatory Commission, jointly issued a “green loan” policy in July that banned loans to blacklisted companies.

In addition, the government stated that the worst violators would face shutdowns of up to three years.

A senior official with the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, said that “all these measures made it clear that companies must establish pollution-treatment facilities. Only paying fines for degrading the environment is definitely not enough.”

As supervision strengthened, some companies had to shut down.

Fuan Textile Mill, a Hong Kong-listed company, shut down last March as it was found to be discharging wastewater directly into underground pipes. The company was fined 11.55 million yuan (1.65 million U.S. dollars).

During the spring session of this year’s Canton Fair, which concluded on Wednesday, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said China would maintain strict controls on polluting and energy-wasting companies, despite a tougher export situation.

Appliance giant Haier introduced a “green strategy” at the fair. It showed off more than 100 new products, such as washing machines that don’t require laundry powder. The company won orders worth 850 million U.S. dollars.

Sales manager Yang Hong said that a Spanish customer had decided to buy more than 10 million U.S. dollars worth of environmentally-friendly products in less than 15 minutes. “It was a surprise to us,” said Yang.

Other products at the fair, such as furniture, decorations and toys, also emphasized an environmentally-friendly trend. Products using recycled materials were especially popular.

Liu Zhenyi, president of Shandong Luyi Wooden Product Co., Ltd., said their wood and woven-grass products all used recycled materials.

“Our products were made to European standards, although the cost was much higher,” he said. “They do not contain any lead or toxic chemical materials. We are confident about our products.”

Xu said Chinese companies were following stricter rules in designing, manufacturing, recycling and selling their products. “To promote energy-efficient products is to save resources for the world,” he said.

A Mexican buyer said that consumers in his country believed Chinese products were low-end only a couple of years ago “but now nobody would worry about quality.”

He said: “China is our major import country. Last year, we imported one to two containers of goods every month, but now we need to import at least two containers.”

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