Department of Commerce

On Friday, May 17, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation directing the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to negotiate trade agreements to address the national security threat posed by imports of foreign automobiles and certain automotive parts. The proclamation provides for 180 days of negotiations, delaying the decision on whether to impose import restrictions

On January 10, 2018, Canada circulated to WTO members a request for consultations challenging several aspects of the United States antidumping and countervailing proceedings. The request for consultation is available on the WTO’s website and can be found here.

In particular, Canada challenges:

  1. the way in which the U.S. Department of Commerce refunds cash deposits after adverse WTO determinations;
  2. the United States’ suspension of liquidation of cash deposit requirements when the U.S. Department of Commerce preliminarily determines critical circumstances exist;
  3. the U.S. Department of Commerce’s treatment of certain export measures by foreign governments in the agency’s countervailing duty proceedings;
  4. the U.S. Department of Commerce’s calculation of benefits involving the provision of goods for less than adequate remuneration in the agency’s countervailing duty proceedings; and
  5. the U.S. Department of Commerce’s procedures for collecting evidence in antidumping and countervailing duty investigations.


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The U.S. Department of Commerce self-initiated antidumping and countervailing investigations of common alloy aluminum sheet from China on November 28.  An accompanying fact sheet estimates dumping margins on the subject merchandise to be between 56.54 and 59.72 percent, and estimates a subsidy rate above de minimis.  Trade cases are typically initiated in response to petitions filed by a domestic industry alleging that dumped or unfairly subsidized goods are being exported to the U.S. market.  Self-initiation authority, however, can be exercised whenever the Secretary determines that a formal trade remedy investigation is warranted based on available information.

The Department’s use of self-initiation authority has been judicious and rare.  In an agency-issued press release Secretary Wilbur Ross stated, “{w}e are self-initiating the first trade case in over a quarter century, showing once again that we stand in constant vigilance in support of free, fair, and reciprocal trade.”  The Department further noted that it last self-initiated a countervailing duty investigation in 1991 on softwood lumber from Canada, and last self-initiated an antidumping duty investigation in 1985 on semiconductors from Japan. 
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On October 26, 2017, the Department of Commerce  announced the results of an investigation concluding that China is a non-market economy (“NME”) country for purposes of Commerce’s antidumping analysis.  Commerce’s decision continues the long-standing practice of the agency with respect to the antidumping methodology it applies to cases involving China.

Commerce was spurred to review its position on China’s NME status, last addressed in 2006, following the December 11, 2016 change in China’s Protocol of Accession to the World Trade Organization (“WTO”).  By way of background, the WTO Antidumping Agreement permits WTO member countries to impose duties on dumped imports.  Those duties are calculated as either the difference between the imported product’s export price and the comparable home market price, or the difference between the export price and a constructed value based on the product’s cost of production.  Sometimes, however, those home market prices or costs of production do not reflect market forces, particularly in NME countries.
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On August 14, the Commerce Department published a notice in the Federal Register announcing preliminary subsidy margins ranging from 16.56 to 80.97 percent in its countervailing duty investigation of certain aluminum foil from China.  The aluminum foil covered by Commerce’s investigation has a thickness of 0.2 mm or less, and is coiled in reels that

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross reminds U.S. trading partners with sizeable surpluses that trade flows in not one, but two directions.

Pushing back against assessments that U.S. trade policy is turning inward, Ross shifts the protectionist spotlight toward the policies, tariffs and regulations of key trade partners have put American workers, goods and services at a disadvantage – unfairly so.  Free and fair trade, he argues, must address such non-tariff barriers that likely contribute to trade deficits.  He further maintains that U.S. demands for a level playing field under these circumstances are driven by equity, not protectionism. 
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