Chinese firm wins protracted antitrust case in US


A protracted antitrust case in the United States against a Hebei province-based vitamin C producer has finally ended in victory for the Chinese company after nearly 17 years, signaling far-reaching implications for the nation's companies operating overseas, experts and business leaders said on Monday.

The case offers Chinese businesses practical experience in dealing with international litigation, and they should take legal measures to protect their legitimate rights and interests while operating overseas, which will help deepen China's integration into the global economy, they said.

Their comments came after North China Pharmaceutical Group Corp, or NCPC, won a retrial in an antitrust lawsuit last week, after the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out a price-fixing lawsuit against Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co and its parent company NCPC.

In the case, which has been ongoing since January 2005, some US companies accused four major vitamin C producers in China, including Hebei Welcome, of price collusion and the formation of a monopoly, and requested compensation of 1.57 billion yuan ($242 million). The three other defendants in the case had agreed to settle out of court.

Hebei Welcome won the case in 2016, but the plaintiff refused to accept the judgment and applied to the US Supreme Court for a retrial. Two years later, the US Supreme Court sent the case back for a retrial, and the retrial judgment started last week.

The US is a typical country in applying case law, in which past legal decisions by courts are used to resolve ambiguities in deciding other cases. Therefore, the victory by NCPC is of great significance for other Chinese companies to learn and adopt similar methods in global markets, said Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for WTO Studies.

"This victory has inspired domestic companies. They should adapt to market rules and strengthen their study and compliance with domestic and foreign anti-monopoly laws," said Liu Xiaohan, Party secretary of the Hebei Pharmaceutical Profession Association.

Zhang Tingde, NCPC's general counsel, said that this case is a milestone for Chinese companies in going global.

The victory in the case offers Chinese businesses practical experience in dealing with international litigation. It will boost the confidence of domestic companies in expanding overseas and protecting their rights while doing so, Zhang added.

Data from Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, which is based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, showed that the world's current production capacity for vitamin C totaled 220,000 metric tons, and that of China surpassed 200,000 tons, accounting for nearly 91 percent of the world total. According to the institute, the main consumption markets of vitamin C are the US and European countries.

Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing, said: "Even though the case took a long time, and NCPC has always been actively responding to the lawsuit, it is an example of learning and practicing the host country's laws to protect the company's own rights."

"In the meantime, the Chinese government has also provided legal assistance to help the company safeguard its rights," he added.

As China and its partners advance the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement ahead of its operation next year, and the nation is considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, many of its export-oriented companies have started to deploy more resources to lean toward localization in overseas markets, said Chen Jian'an, vice-chairman of Beijing-based China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.   

Source by ChinaDaily.