20 February 2009 19:15 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Hefty duties proposed against US biodiesel imports to Europe may founder in the face of further investigation and politics, sources said on Friday.
Concerns about possible temporary tariffs ranging from €280-410/tonne ($354-519/tonne) on subsidised US B99 (99% biodiesel, 1% mineral diesel) have spread as newswires on Thursday described a leaked preliminary report on the European Commission’s (EC) anti-dumping investigation against US suppliers.
Manning Feraci, NBB vice president of federal affairs, stressed that the findings were preliminary. EC representatives would still have to find out that the subsidies were directly causing material injury to the entire European biodiesel industry before it issued a final report, he said.
“You have one set of companies doing extremely well and another set doing poorly for reasons not related to US biodiesel costs,” Feraci said. “Those are some pretty compelling facts in this case.”
The temporary duties described in the leaked reports would take effect when the EC makes its formal announcement in mid-March. EU member states would then vote in mid-July whether to make the duties permanent.
A source familiar with the case said large EU biodiesel producers near ports were doing well, with some raising prices and increasing production, a fact that may temper EU officials’ final decision in the case.
“It wouldn’t be the first time the preliminary decision wacks the exporters in the shins. Then in the final decision they get real,” the source said.
An EC spokeswoman would not comment, calling the investigation findings confidential.
European Biodiesel Board (EBB) project manager Amandine Lacourt said the description of the preliminary report was “reasonably accurate”.
“Our understanding is that [the duties] would affect the trade of US B99 and hopefully stop it completely,” Lacourt said. “Our industry is really suffering from this trade, which we depict as unfair.”
The EBB argues that the $1/gal federal blending credit has given an unfair advantage to US suppliers and allowed them to cripple the EU industry. US exports to the EU grew from about 50,000 tonnes in 2006 to more than 1m tonnes in the year leading to March 2008, accounting for 17% of the biodiesel market there, according to EC statistics.
In the US, producers have countered that EU energy policy and high feedstock costs weight heavier on their counterparts’ business than imports.
Their case may have been bolstered on Monday, when Biopetrol Industries of Switzerland blamed not only US imports but also European and German energy policies and increased energy tax for its expected full-year operating loss of €11.5m.
As much as the EBB may want the duties imposed, some on the ground believe officials at the EU and World Trade Organization (WTO) may balk at starting a trade war with a new US administraton on behalf of an already fragile industry.
“There’s a new administration - who wants to be the one to fire the first trade shot across the Atlantic?” said one source familiar with the matter who requested anominity.
A WTO spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
($1 = €0.79)
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