US Biofuels Industry Wants To Build A Trade Wall And Make Argentina Pay For It

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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U.S. biofuel lobbyists have petitioned the Trump administration to build a trade wall against Argentina by imposing tariffs on what they say are illegally subsidized biodiesel imports.

The National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition filed a new “critical circumstances” claim with the U.S. Department of Commerce Monday, asking the agency to impose retroactive duties on biodiesel shipments from Argentina.

Biodiesel producers are no doubt hoping Trump’s “America First” instincts will help them secure tariffs against foreign competition. Trump’s openly considered tariffs on steel imports to help domestic producers and blue collar unions.

“Our industry deserves relief,” Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, said in a statement.

“The law provides a remedy for U.S. industries harmed by illegal trade practices of this nature,” she said, “and so we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure these unlawful actions are addressed.”

U.S.-based biodiesel makers argue Argentinian subsidies are hurting American companies by making imports cheaper than domestically-produced biofuel. They argue Argentina’s subsidy regime has caused exports to boom and eat away at U.S. industry’s market share.

Biodiesel lobbyists filed a petition in May to slap tariffs on imports from Argentina and Indonesia, which they claim are unfairly subsidized. The industry says Argentinian imports have risen nearly 145 percent since then, necessitating immediate action.

The industry argues the Commerce Department could make Argentina pay by imposing retroactive tariffs on biodiesel shipped to the U.S. over the last 90 days. That decision could be made before the Trump administration makes a final determination on whether or not to increase tariffs on Argentine biodiesel.

The Trump administration is expected to make a preliminary decision on biodiesel tariffs in August, followed by a final decision sometime next year.

“Our producers should not continue to be pushed aside by increased volumes of subsidized and dumped imports,” Steckel said.

The petition comes after the EPA released proposed levels of biofuels it will require refiners to blend into fuels as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA proposed maintaining the biodiesel mandate for 2019 at 2.1 billion gallons.

Overall, EPA slightly reduced biofuel blending requirements for 2019. It was seen as a nod to refiners who are burdened with high costs of complying with blending requirements.

Major refiners paid more than $2 billion complying with the RFS in 2016 — a 70 percent cost surge from the previous year, according to Reuters.

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