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U.S. sets duties as high as 26% on wind towers from China

The U.S. Commerce Department set duties from 13.74 percent to 26 percent on imports of wind towers from China used by the energy industry, siding with U.S. manufacturers including Broadwind Energy Inc. (BWEN)

The agency released preliminary results today of its investigation into a complaint from the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, which claims its members are harmed by subsidies on products from China. In addition to Broadwind of Naperville, Illinois, the group includes Otter Tail Corp. (OTTR)’s DMI Industries, Katana Summit LLC and a unit of Trinity Industries Inc. (TRN)

The decision is a “positive step,” Daniel Pickard, a lawyer with Wiley Rein LLP in Washington who represents the coalition, said in a phone interview. The finding is “where we expected it to be,” he said. Broadwind deferred all comments to Pickard.

Broadwind closed little changed at 29 cents in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, and rose as much as 9.5 percent after the announcement. The shares are down 57 percent this year.

The wind-tower case highlights growing tension between the U.S. and China on economic and renewable-energy issues ahead of the U.S. elections in November. The Commerce Department on May 17 announced tariffs of 31 percent to 250 percent on Chinese solar-product imports, after companies including the U.S. unit of SolarWorld AG (SWV) said the products were sold below production cost. China on May 25 said it filed a complaint against U.S. anti-subsidy duties with the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
Following Rules

The U.S. is “not going to stand by when our competitors aren’t following the rules,” President Barack Obama said today at a ceremony to sign a bill reauthorizing the U.S. Export- Import Bank, which promotes sales of American exports. “We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate of the previous administration,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Embassy of China in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It’s a long, slow escalation of trade and currency wars as we race to the bottom,” Theodore O’Neill, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities Inc. in New York, said as China lodged its WTO complaint.

The Commerce Department today set duties of 13.74 percent for CS Wind China Co. and several affiliated companies, and 26 percent for Titan Wind Energy Suzhou Co. (002531) and its affiliates. The rate is 19.87 percent for other Chinese exporters and producers.
Cash Deposits

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will start collecting a cash deposit from importers based on today’s decision, the agency said in a statement. The payments will be refunded if a final determination, scheduled for August, reverses the preliminary finding.

“This could be a short-lived victory for Broadwind” and U.S.-based wind-tower makers if Congress doesn’t renew the production tax credit for wind energy that expires this year, Christopher Blansett, an analyst with JP Morgan Securities LLC in San Francisco, said in an e-mail yesterday.

The U.S. in 2010 imported utility-scale wind towers from China valued at $222 million, according to the Commerce Department.

The agency’s decision today covers countervailing duties, imposed to compensate for government subsidies.

Separately, the wind-energy group said competitors from China and Vietnam have unfairly undercut their prices on the steel towers and rotor blades used for commercial wind turbines. Towers from China are sold for 64 percent less than the domestic price, and units from Vietnam sell for 59 percent less, according to the wind group’s petition in December.

The Commerce Department’s preliminary decision in the anti- dumping investigation is scheduled to be released during the third quarter.