Wind Tower Makers in U.S. Hurt by China Imports, Panel Finds

U.S. makers of wind towers such as Broadwind Energy Inc. are being harmed by cheaper imports from China and Vietnam, a trade panel ruled in the first step toward imposing tariffs on the shipments.

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted today in a preliminary ruling on a petition from the Wind Tower Trade Coalition asking the Obama administration to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The Washington-based ITC will now proceed with a full investigation.

The coalition’s complaint, filed in December, said competitors from China use unfair pricing to win U.S. sales. The group also includes Otter Tail Corp.’s DMI Industries, a unit of Trinity Industries Inc., and Katana Summit.

The U.S. Commerce Department and the trade commission also have agreed to investigate a separate Oct. 19 complaint from U.S. solar-panel manufacturers led by the U.S. unit of SolarWorld AG, which said they are being harmed because China’s government uses cash grants, discounts on raw materials, preferential loans and tax incentives to benefit Chinese companies. Commerce is scheduled to make a preliminary finding in the case March 2.

The petition on metal towers, which hold aloft turbines that convert wind into electricity, expanded a dispute over pricing and government subsidies for alternative energy. The Commerce Department has agreed to consider the wind-tower companies request for countervailing-duties against China.

China, Vietnam Imports

The U.S. in 2010 imported towers valued at $103.6 million from China and $51.9 million from Vietnam, according to the Commerce Department.

Anti-dumping duties are imposed when imports are sold at or below the price in the home nation. U.S. prices on towers from China are 64 percent less than in the domestic price, while units from Vietnam cost 59 percent less, according to the U.S. companies’ petition. Countervailing duties aim to offset the benefits of government subsidies to industries.

President Barack Obama’s administration filed a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization in December 2010 over support for wind-energy manufacturers using aid tied to using locally produced content. China agreed to end hundreds of millions of dollars in such subsidies, the U.S. trade office said in June.

The U.S. and China have also clashed over access to each others’ markets for products including steel pipes, poultry, tires, movies and music.

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