Biodiesel Investigation Continues

Department of Commerce Says Biodiesel Investigation on Schedule Despite Federal Register Notice

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A key deadline in a federal investigation into biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia is next week. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The federal government's antidumping and subsidy investigation into Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel on the United States' market continues as scheduled, despite a posting in the Federal Register on Tuesday announcing the postponement of issuing preliminary determinations.

The U.S. Department of Commerce made the announcement in order to best utilize the time allotted to move on the case. An industry spokesperson told DTN it is strictly a procedural move.

National Biodiesel Board Chief Operating Officer Doug Whitehead said the DOC move was expected.

"In nearly all unfair trade cases investigated by the department of commerce, the agency extends deadlines for issuing decisions," he said.

"Our original timelines assumed cases would be postposed, with preliminary determinations in the antidumping cases in October and in the subsidy cases in August. It is evident from market reaction that some in the industry are not familiar with this legal process and the fact that nearly every trade case, from steel to cased pencils, includes these routine extensions. This in no way impacts the schedule or the fact that unfairly traded imports are hurting American companies and the employees who serve this industry."

A DOC announcement on the subsidy side of the case is expected by Aug. 22. An anti-dumping case announcement is expected by Oct. 20, Whitehead said.

The National Biodiesel Board asked the DOC in July to immediately slap duties on imports of Argentinian biodiesel, claiming in a petition that "critical circumstances" exist to warrant the action.

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A provision of antidumping and countervailing duties laws allows duties and imports to be imposed before a preliminary determination is made on subsidies and dumping allegations previously made by the industry in the United States.

Back in April, the DOC initiated antidumping and countervailing duty investigations aimed at biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia in response to a petition filed by U.S. biodiesel industry interests.

Since that filing, the NBB alleges, biodiesel imports from Argentina have increased by about 145%.

In the July petition, the NBB essentially requested relief in the form of retroactive duties. The action is designed to deter further imports. That would allow the government to impose duties retroactively on imports reaching U.S. shores up to 90 days prior to the DOC's preliminary determinations on the claims in the petitions.

To determine if critical circumstances exist, the DOC is required to find that there are "massive" imports in a relatively short period of time, as well as other legal criteria including whether those imports benefitted from illegal subsidies.

In an NBB news release in July, the group said Argentina has continued to ramp up those exports despite the launching of the investigation.

Citing information from "a business intelligence company," the NBB said biodiesel exports from Argentina in April reached a five-month high, "all of which was shipped to the United States." It is expected that 75 million gallons of biodiesel from Argentina will be reaching U.S. ports.

According to the NBB, after the U.S. industry filed its petition, "Argentina substantially reduced its export taxes on biodiesel, and then lifted those taxes this month, contributing to the increase in shipments and exacerbating already challenging circumstances for U.S. producers."

Earlier this year, the NBB filed petitions with the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission, which allege significant increases in subsidized and dumped biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia have injured U.S. producers.

In its notice of initiation, the DOC said based on information provided by the U.S. biodiesel industry, there is reason to believe that Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel companies were selling into the U.S. "at less-than-fair value." The DOC estimates Argentina's dumping margin could be as high as nearly 27% and Indonesia's at about 28% from 2014 to 2016.

In written comments to the International Trade Commission, the Argentine government said the petition was based on "extremely limited" information and actually shows the U.S. industry was hardly harmed.

Argentina makes the case that U.S. producers never made a claim that imported biodiesel actually hurt profits. In addition, the government argues U.S. producers alone were unable to fulfill the Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements from 2014 to 2016.

Read the Department of Commerce's notice here: http://bit.ly/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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Todd Neeley