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US trade panel affirms Argentina, Indonesia biodiesel probe

Biodiesel is seen through a tube at a biodiesel refinery in San Lorenzo, Argentina.

[WASHINGTON] The US International Trade Commission voted on Friday to continue a US Commerce Department investigation into alleged dumping and unfair subsidies of biodiesel fuels from Argentina and Indonesia, moving a step closer to punitive US duties.

The 5-0 decision followed the initiation of Commerce Department probes in April after US biodiesel producers claimed that soaring imports from Argentina and Indonesia were dumped at prices below production costs, harming their ability to produce the fuels.

The next step in the probe is for the US Commerce Department to determine whether to impose preliminary anti-dumping duties and anti-subsidy duties.

Futures prices for soyoil, the most common feedstock used in US biodiesel production, surged nearly 3 per cent ahead of the vote before trimming gains. CBOT soyoil for July delivery settled 0.40 cent higher at US$32.90 cents per pound, off their earlier six-week high of US$33.47.

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Prices of biomass-based diesel (D4) renewable fuel credits (RINs) for the current year traded from US$1.01 to US$1.045 each, rising in the wake of the vote, traders said.

US biodiesel makers Archer Daniels Midland Co and Renewable Energy Group Inc praised the ITC vote. REG's shares jumped 16 per cent while ADM shares were about flat.

"The facts clearly show that Argentina and Indonesia are engaging in unfair trade practices, and we are confident that duties will be imposed when the final decision is made," said Ray Bradbury, president of biodiesel at ADM, one of the petitioners for the dumping investigation.

Argentina's biodiesel association Carbio declined to comment.

Imports of soy-based biodiesel from Argentina and palm oil-based biodiesel from Indonesia rose 464 per cent from 2014 to 2016, according to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).

US biodiesel imports in 2016 hit a record 3.5 billion litres, according to US government data. Argentina represented about two-thirds, followed by Indonesia and Canada. The imports accounted for nearly half of US biodiesel demand for 2 billion gallons.

"Today's decision in our favour is an important next step for the US biodiesel producers suffering because of the flood of imports," said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at NBB.