U.S. slaps tariffs on wind towers from China, Vietnam

Source: John McArdle, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, July 30, 2012

The Obama administration ruled Friday that Chinese and Vietnamese manufacturers of steel towers used in utility-scale wind turbines have been selling their products in the United States at less than fair value, handing another victory to American manufacturers and escalating an ongoing renewable energy trade battle

In its preliminary determination today, the Commerce Department set tariff rates of 20.85 percent to 72.69 percent to counter dumping practices by Chinese producers. The tariff on Vietnamese manufactures was set at 52.67 percent to 59.91 percent.

For China, the dumping tariff comes on top of tariffs Commerce imposed in late May after the agency found that the government had provided improper subsidies to its domestic wind tower manufacturers. That rate ranged from 13.74 percent to 26 percent (E&ENews PM, May 30).

Today’s decision was hailed by four U.S. wind tower manufacturers that filed the case in late December. The companies claim they are losing business to Chinese-subsidized rivals that dump their product on the U.S. market. The group — Broadwind Towers Inc., DMI Industries, Katana Summit LLC and Trinity Structural Towers Inc. — calls itself the Wind Tower Trade Coalition.

“Commerce has taken an important step to address the significant dumping that is taking place. The preliminary [dumping and countervailing duties tariff decisions] will help to remedy the material injury already suffered by the U.S. industry and force the Chinese and Vietnamese producers to compete fairly,” said Alan Price, chairman of the trade practice at the Washington, D.C., law firm Wiley Rein, which represents the coalition, in a statement

The steel towers covered by the complaint support turbines that each generate at least 100 kilowatts. Commerce said the United States imported $222 million worth of towers from China last year and $79 million from Vietnam.

The varying dumping tariff rates are the result of specific rates being set for companies named in the complaint and other rates set for those that were not. For example, Commerce set a tariff on the China-based Titan Wind Energy of 20.85 percent, while Chengxi Shipyard Co. received a 30.93 percent rate. Other companies that responded to Commerce’s investigation were hit with a rate of 26.25 percent, while those that failed to do so received a tariff of 72.69 percent.

The conflict over Chinese and Vietnamese wind towers comes as a group of U.S. solar manufacturers have also successfully argued for heavy new import duties on cheap Chinese solar panels.

Earlier this year, Commerce hit Chinese solar panel makers with anti-dumping tariffs ranging from 31 to about 250 percent, following an earlier decision to set smaller countervailing duties of 3 to 5 percent.

That case wasn’t received kindly in China, where the government has responded with rulings that renewable energy programs in five states — California, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington — violate trade rules. Just last week, China also announced that it would start its own dumping and countervailing duty case against the U.S. polysilicon industry.

But China’s response has not dissuaded European solar panel manufacturers from pursuing their own anti-dumping case against Chinese products shipped to the European Union.

The European coalition of companies officially filed its own case yesterday. That group has said the success of the U.S. companies inspired its effort with the European Commission (Greenwire, July 26).