Senators request WTO challenge of EU duty on US ethanol

By Holly Jessen | April 30, 2013

A group of fourteen U.S. senators recently sent a letter asking the acting U.S. trade representative and acting secretary of commerce to consider a World Trade Organization challenge to the five-year duty imposed on U.S. ethanol exported to the European Union.

Following an anti-dumping investigation that started in October 2011, the European Commission approved a five-year $83.03 per metric ton tariff or duty imposed on only U.S. ethanol. The duty went into effect Feb. 23, one day after it was published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, and Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, issued a joint statement, calling the anti-dumping duty outrageous and unprecedented. “The EU Commission failed to make any particular finding of dumping by any producer or marketer investigated in connection with the case,” the statement said. “If allowed to stand, this rule would set a dangerous precedent for trade and trade remedies in advance of important trade talks between the U.S. and the EU, and furthermore will dramatically change the boundaries and limits of international anti-dumping law.” The groups added that they were pleased that members of the Senate had taken action and that they believed that the WTO would nullify the anti-dumping duty on U.S. ethanol.

The letter, which was sent out on April 29, went to Demetrios Manatos, acting U.S. trade representative, and Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of commerce. It said precedence from decades of international and European Commission cases required that anti-dumping complaints show actual dumping by certain people or groups. In addition, different degrees of penalties or duty rates are typically assigned to the worst actors or who were not cooperative participants in the investigation. “Breaking from that well-established practice, we understand that the European Commission is now proposing a country-wide duty against all ethanol imports from the United States, regardless of whether that producer or marketer has engaged in any of the alleged offensive acts, or was willing or unwilling to participate in the investigation,” the letter said, adding that the senators do not believe the European Commission came to an adequate finding of injury.

The group of senators that signed the letter consists of half republicans and half democrats, representing eight states. It was coauthored by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Also signing the letter included, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Al Franken, D-Minn., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.