(Updates with details on trade dispute, industry comments; adds byline, dateline)
By Michael Hirtzer
CHICAGO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Tuesday made a final finding that biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia harm U.S. producers, ensuring that anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties remain in effect for at least five years.
The U.S. Commerce Department last month set steep trade barriers that brought to a halt shipments of soyoil-based biodiesel from Argentina and palm oil-based supplies from Indonesia.
All four ITC votes were in favor of the finding that “U.S. industry is materially injured by reason of imports from Argentina and Indonesia that the U.S. Department of Commerce has determined are subsidized,” it said in a statement.
The ITC’s affirmation effectively locks in place the duties set by the Commerce Department for five years.
The National Biodiesel Board, a trade group representing U.S. producers, petitioned the government in March to impose the duties, claiming the imports were coming into the United States below the cost of production and undercutting local producers.
“Foreign government subsidies have made it nearly impossible for U.S. producers to compete,” National Biodiesel Board Chief Executive Officer Donnell Rehagen said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We are gratified that countervailing duty orders will contribute to leveling the playing field such that the domestic industry has the opportunity to produce at the levels it knows it can.”
Argentina’s foreign ministry in November said the anti-subsidy duties that were as high as 72.28 percent made their biodiesel too expensive for the U.S. market. Its biodiesel exports in the third quarter fell 30 percent, due in part to the duties.
Biodiesel is used by itself or with petroleum-based diesel mainly as a motor fuel.
Futures for soyoil, the most commonly used feedstock in biodiesel production, turned higher on the Chicago Board of Trade following the mid-morning vote, before easing 0.03 cent to 33.41 cents per pound.
The Commerce Department is expected to set final countervailing duties by the end of the month.
Additional reporting by David Alexander and Eric Walsh in Washington, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien