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Commerce steps up antidumping actions

Duties on acetone are latest from a more vigilant department

by Michael McCoy
September 26, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 38


An aerial photo of a container ship.
Credit: Shutterstock
Under the Trump administration, the US Commerce Department has stepped up its enforcement of dumping laws.

The Trump administration is known for slapping tariffs on products from countries, like China, that it deems to be trading unfairly with the US. Less well known is its strict enforcement of laws against dumping—when a foreign company sells a product in the US at prices below its cost of production or home market rate.

In the latest such action, the US Commerce Department has made a preliminary determination that acetone producers in Belgium, South Africa, and South Korea are dumping the chemical in the US. In response, the department is slapping duties on acetone from the accused companies ranging from 8 to 48%.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, the Commerce Department has initiated 182 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations—231% more than during the comparable period in the Obama administration, it says. Other imported chemicals recently subject to the department’s scrutiny include glycine, magnesium, polyester sheet and yarn, and sodium sulfate.

Timothy C. Brightbill, a partner at the law firm Wiley Rein who has represented multiple US firms and industries in trade cases, says he has seen a “strong increase in requests” for legal help from companies that say they have been harmed by unfairly traded imports. He sees two main reasons.

“Dumping and injury is getting worse in many cases,” Brightbill says. “And clearly this administration is focused on trade and trade enforcement, and that encourages companies and industries that are being harmed to take action.”

“We are successful in the vast majority of cases,” Brightbill adds. “Companies only file when they feel they have a compelling case.”



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