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Thursday, June 7, 2012

U.S. Trade Remedy Laws and Nonmarket Economies: A Legal Overview

Jeanne J. Grimmett
Legislative Attorney

Two major U.S. trade remedies are antidumping (AD) law, which combats the sale of imported products at less than their fair market value, and countervailing duty (CVD) law, which aims to offset foreign government subsidization of imported goods. If dumped or subsidized imports are found to cause or threaten material injury to a domestic industry, antidumping or countervailing duties will be imposed. Both remedies are available when goods are imported from competitor countries with free market policies. As of 1984, however, only AD law had been applied to goods from nonmarket or “transitional” economies (NMEs). With the continued economic growth of some of these economies, such as China and Vietnam, pressure increased on the U.S. government to use both trade remedies more aggressively against unfair imports from these countries.

AD law has been amended several times since its inception in 1921. With Congress’s continued statutory guidance, the Department of Commerce (DOC) has implemented several different methodologies for applying AD law, including using surrogate country data when the fair market value of a product in the originating country is not readily ascertainable. CVD law had not been used against NMEs, however, since DOC concluded in 1984 that it could not determine subsidization in such situations. In 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), in Georgetown Steel Corp. v. United States, upheld DOC’s interpretation of the CVD statute as reasonable. While DOC had generally refused to review CVD petitions against NME countries following this determination, it accepted a petition seeking a CVD on imports of coated free-sheet paper from China in 2006. DOC distinguished the current Chinese economy from the Soviet-style economies at issue in Georgetown Steel and found that the imported Chinese paper was subsidized. Although the U.S. International Trade Commission did not make the requisite final affirmative material injury determination in this case, subsequent CVD petitions were successful, resulting in the imposition of 24 CVD orders on NME merchandise.

World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, together with the WTO Accession Protocols of China and Vietnam, acknowledge that AD and CV duties may be imposed on these countries’ goods, and that surrogate country data may be used to calculate dumping margins or subsidization. In a WTO case brought by China, however, the WTO Appellate Body found in an April 2011 report that the simultaneous imposition by the United States of AD and CV duties on the same Chinese merchandise, where surrogate country data was used to establish the fair market value of the goods in the AD case, remedied the same subsidization twice or “double counted” in violation of U.S. WTO obligations. More broadly, the CAFC held in December 2011 that CVDs may not be imposed on NME goods under any circumstance, finding in GPX Int’l Tire Corp. v. United States that Congress had legislatively ratified DOC’s 1984 statutory interpretation and thus DOC could not interpret the statute to permit such duties. The CAFC affirmed a lower court decision that also prohibited DOC from imposing CVDs on NME goods, but did so because DOC had not eliminated double counting, the practice at issue in the WTO dispute. The Administration asked Congress to enact remedial legislation and, on March 5, 2012, requested that the CAFC rehear the GPX case. Congress responded quickly, enacting P.L. 112-99, signed March 13, 2012, which generally authorizes CVDs for NME goods, makes this authority effective as of November 20, 2006, and prospectively amends AD law to address double counting issues. DOC is preparing WTO-compliant determinations in China’s WTO case and has stated that implementation of the new law will be a factor in this compliance effort. The United States did not fully comply by the April 25 deadline in the case, however, and has agreed to facilitate any WTO compliance review requested by China. On May 9, 2012, the CAFC remanded the GPX case to the lower court to address constitutional issues stemming from the different effective dates in the new law.

Date of Report: May 23, 2012
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: RL33976
Price: $29.95

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