Argentine biodiesel producers have been hit by US duties. (Photo via Noticias Argentinas)

The United States is one step closer to slapping anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel, further to the existing duties for “unfair subsidies” that have already been placed on the exports.

Today’s finding by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) that “U.S. industry is materially injured by reason of imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia that the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) has determined are sold in the United States at less than fair value” paves the way for new duties to be instituted by the Department of Commerce later this month. The USITC did not find grounds to apply retroactive duties on Argentine biodiesel exports.

The USITC’s finding is further to a decision in February by which the US Commerce Department determined exporters from “Argentina and Indonesia have sold biodiesel in the United States at 60.44 – 86.41 percent and 92.52 – 276.65 percent less than fair value, respectively.” The combined countervailing and anti-dumping duties could amount to 159 percent, according to Reuters.

“Today’s decision allows U.S. producers of biodiesel to receive relief from the market-distorting effects of foreign producers dumping into the domestic market,” said US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in February. “While the United States values its relationship with Argentina and Indonesia, even our closest friends must play by the rules.” A few weeks earlier Ross had hinted at a possible resolution to the conflict.

Currently, countervailing duties as high as 72 percent on Argentine biodiesel for receiving alleged subsidies have all but shut the US market to Argentine producers.

The Mauricio Macri administration has protested against the measures and has insisted that the US actions are without merit, and have reserved the right to take the matters before the World Trade Organization. In early February, during a visit by then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Buenos Aires, Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said “we’re engaging in dialogue that allows us to find solutions on the bilateral level on which we have been working on for the last 3 months.”

Argentine exports of biodiesel to the United States in 2017 were down compared to the previous year, after transitory duties of more than 50 percent were instated in August. Instead of the 1.5 million tons exported to the United States in 2016, approximately 1.03 million tons had been dispatched to the United States at the end of 2017.  

The European Union in 2017 reduced its own tariffs on Argentine biodiesel after the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Argentina in a dispute over biodiesel exports. Exports to the EU jumped to 650,000 tons in 2017, making up for some of the reduction in US imports. Before the duties were instated, about 90 percent of Argentine biodiesel exports went to the US. That trade was worth about US $1.1 billion in 2016 and US $726 million in 2017, or roughly 16 percent of all Argentine exports to the United States, according to the ABECEB consulting firm.

The decisions concerning biodiesel contrast with the temporary US exemption from tariffs on Argentine steel and aluminum products.

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