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US imposes duties on wind tower imports from 3 countries

The Trump administration, as part of its efforts to protect U.S. manufacturers from subsidized imports, on Dec. 9 announced that it is imposing preliminary duties on imports of wind towers from Canada, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The U.S. Commerce Department in a news release said an investigation found that Canada has provided subsidies to wind tower producers at a rate of 1.09%, Indonesia at a rate of 20.29% and Vietnam at a rate of 2.43%. The U.S. will now impose duties on imports from those countries at those same rates.

"The strict enforcement of U.S. trade law is a primary focus of the Trump Administration," the news release said. "Since the beginning of the current Administration, Commerce has initiated 187 new antidumping and countervailing duty investigations ⁠— a 188 percent increase from the comparable period in the previous administration."

The Wind Tower Trade Coalition, whose members include Arcosa Inc. and Broadwind Energy Inc., in July petitioned the department for a countervailing duty investigation into whether U.S. companies are injured by the subsidized imports from the three countries.

Both companies said they had to reduce prices to remain competitive with foreign imports. Alan Price, an attorney who represents the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, told the U.S. International Trade Commission that domestic wind tower producers were struggling to compete with foreign competitors even as demand surged as developers raced to get projects across the line before the 2020 expiration of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy projects.

"If the domestic producers are struggling to compete with unfairly traded imports in a period of good demand, they will likely have no chance to compete when demand falls off," Price said.

But an attorney for Marmen Inc., a Canadian producer of wind towers, argued that the volume of imports from that country were not significant enough to exert downward price pressure in the U.S.

Imports in 2018 from utility-scale wind towers from Canada, Indonesia and Vietnam were valued at roughly $60.2 million, $37.4 million and $21.4 million, respectively, the Commerce Department said.

The Wind Tower Trade Coalition also asked the administration to launch anti-dumping investigations into whether wind towers from those countries, as well as from South Korea, were being sold at artificially low prices in the U.S. The concurrent anti-dumping investigation is ongoing. Final results of both investigations are scheduled for release April 21, 2020.

The administration in 2018 also placed duties on most foreign-made solar panels to shield domestic manufacturers from foreign competition. Those tariffs had mixed results. While solar panel manufacturers have opened factories in the U.S., they have also said that they need more tariff-free solar panel components to remain viable.