(Corrects wording of paragraph 10 to clarify reference to
* China has been investigating auto industry since 2011
* Penalty comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-Sino relations
* Trump comments on trade, Taiwan have rattled U.S. firms in
By John Ruwitch and Jake Spring
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Dec 14 China will soon slap a
penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behaviour,
the official China Daily newspaper reported on Wednesday,
quoting a senior state planning official.
News of the penalty comes at a sensitive time for China-U.S.
relations after U.S. president-elect Donald Trump called into
question a long-standing U.S. policy of acknowledging that
Taiwan is part of "one China".
Beijing maintains that self-ruled Taiwan is a wayward
province of China and has never renounced the use of force to
take it back.
Investigators found the U.S. company had instructed
distributors to fix prices starting in 2014, Zhang Handong,
director of the National Development and Reform Commission's
price supervision bureau, was quoted as saying.
In an exclusive interview with the newspaper, Zhang said no
one should "read anything improper" into the timing or target of
The article did not give further details and the NDRC did
not immediately respond to requests for comment.
China, the world's largest auto market, has become crucial
to the strategies of car companies around the world, including
major U.S. players General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co
"We are unaware of the issue," said Mark Truby, Ford's chief
spokesman for its Asia-Pacific operations.
In a statement, GM said: "GM fully respects local laws and
regulations wherever we operate. We do not comment on media
COMMENTS UNSETTLE COMPANIES
The penalty follows a government crackdown on what it has
called monopolistic behaviour by foreign automakers and dealers.
It would be the second penalty by the NDRC this month and
the seventh fine issued to automakers since the commission began
anti-monopoly investigations in 2011, the newspaper said.
Targeted firms have included Audi AG, Daimler AG's
Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp, and one
of Nissan Motor Co Ltd's joint ventures.
The NDRC's move was not directed against Trump's latest
comments but to show it was not letting up pressure on price
fixing behaviour in the auto sector after a raft of fines last
year, a source at a government-affiliated industry association
"I don't think NDRC had only made a decision two weeks ago
or a week ago. This is a long-term plan for them," the source
Local media had reported NDRC officials saying a penalty
would be levied against an international automotive firm this
year prior to Trump's remarks on Taiwan, although they did not
specify it would be a U.S. company.
In a separate editorial, the China Daily urged Trump to
recognise the importance of close economic ties between China
and the United States rather than "trying to gain an upper hand
in what is essentially a win-win relationship".
"History proves that what is good for Sino-U.S. relations is
good for their economies," it said, noting that Chinese
customers bought more than a third of the 9.96 million vehicles
GM sold worldwide last year.
"For the American economy to be great again... the U.S.
needs to cement its economic relations with China, rather than
Trump's challenges to China on trade and Taiwan have rattled
American companies who have long benefited from stable relations
between the two countries.
In 2011, China imposed duties of up to 22 percent on large
cars and SUVs exported from the United States during a
wide-ranging spat on trade and currencies that became a focus of
criticism for U.S. presidential candidates.
(Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Lincoln