LawFlash

U.S. Congress Passes Legislation Aimed at Preserving Application of Countervailing Duties Against Imports from “Non-Market Economy” Countries, Including China

March 14, 2012

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The U.S. Congress passed legislation on March 6, 2012, designed to preserve application of countervailing duties against imports into the U.S. from “non-market economy” countries (“NMEs”), including China. The legislation was signed on March 13, 2012, by President Obama. Application of countervailing duties against imports from China had been ruled invalid by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) in a decision issued by that court on Dec. 19, 2011. The CAFC decision held that countervailing duties cannot be applied to NMEs.

Background

The U.S. Countervailing Duty law (“CVD Law”) is designed to apply a duty (countervailing duty) to offset government subsidies affecting products imported into the United States. Until late 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department (“Commerce”), which administers the CVD Law, had consistently held that the CVD Law did not apply to imports from NMEs, such as China. In late 2006, Commerce reversed its policy and began imposing countervailing duties against imports from NMEs, including China in particular. The CAFC decision concluded that Commerce’s change in policy was not permissible under the CVD Law. The CAFC decision was based on the CAFC’s conclusion that the 2006 change was not supported by the legislative history of the CVD Law and was also based on consistent prior administrative interpretations of the CVD Law in which Commerce chose not to impose countervailing duties against NMEs.

There are over 20 outstanding orders imposing countervailing duties against imports of products from China as well as several currently pending countervailing duty investigations against imports from China. Unless overturned on appeal or fixed by legislation, the CAFC decision would, presumably, have invalidated all of these outstanding orders and the pending investigations. In addition, the CAFC decision raises a question regarding the validity of countervailing duty assessments made on imports of products from NMEs since Commerce’s change in policy in late 2006.1

The Legislation

The new legislation amends the CVD Law to make clear that countervailing duties can be imposed on imports from NMEs.2

The legislation provides for a retroactive effective date, which purports to apply the amendment retroactively to all countervailing duty proceedings initiated on or after Nov. 20, 2006 (“Post Nov 2006 CVD Proceedings”). The effective date language of the legislation also purports to ratify “all resulting actions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection;” and further to ratify: “all civil actions, criminal proceedings, and other proceedings before a Federal court” relating to Post Nov 2006 CVD Proceedings and relating to the “resulting actions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

It is unclear whether or not the retroactive effect contemplated in the new legislation will be subject to judicial challenge.3 There may be issues as to whether or not an investigation and resulting countervailing duties, which may have been unlawful at the time of investigation and at time of duty imposition, can be salvaged by the retroactive effect of legislation passed by Congress. Parties who have paid countervailing duties on imports from NMEs for which the time periods to challenge the duty assessments have not passed may want to protest any duty assessments that were imposed based on investigations that were initiated (and completed) prior to passage of the new legislation.

The new legislation also addresses a potential double duty assessment that can result from the simultaneous imposition of countervailing duties and antidumping duties. The antidumping law is designed to apply a duty (antidumping duty) to offset prices for imported products that are deemed to be lower than a benchmark, which is theoretically supposed to represent a measurement of the price for such products in the exporter’s home market. Because home market prices in NMEs are considered to be an unreliable measure of home market pricing for purposes of the antidumping law, “surrogate” prices derived from market economy countries are used by the Department of Commerce as a substitute for home market prices to determine whether or not dumping of NME products is occurring and, if it is, the level of duties that should be assessed to offset the dumping.

In theory, surrogate prices used as a substitute for NME home market prices should not reflect the impact of subsidies that may be granted by NME authorities while the prices of products exported from NMEs that benefit from such subsidies may be lower due to such subsidies — which in turn could lead to an increase in the amount of antidumping duties to be assessed. Consequently, antidumping duties may already take into account any subsidies received by NME producers of goods targeted for imposition of countervailing duties. If countervailing duties are imposed in such circumstances, the effect could be to apply the offsetting duties twice, a remedy that would overcompensate for the unfair trade practices addressed by the antidumping and countervailing duty laws. The new legislation contains provisions for elimination of this double duty, although elimination of the double duty is not automatic or straightforward — i.e., Commerce must, in effect, make a determination that the countervailable subsidy has resulted in an increase in the amount of antidumping duties.

 

美国国会通过法律旨在维持对从包括中国在内的 “非市场经济”国家的进口适用反补贴税

2012年3月14日

2012年3月6日,美国国会通过法律,维持对从包括中国在内的“非市场经济”国家的进口适用反补贴税。2012年3月13日,奥巴马总统签署了该法案。之前,美国联邦巡回上诉法院在2011年12月19日判决对从中国的进口适用反补贴税无效。美国联邦巡回上诉法院的判决裁决,反补贴税不适用于非市场经济国家。

背景

美国反补贴税法旨在征收税收(反补贴税)以抵消进口国政府对出口到美国的产品的补贴。2006年底之前,实施反补贴税法的美国商务部始终认为,反补贴税法不适用于从非市场经济国家(比如中国)的进口。2006年底,美国商务部改变了政策,开始对从非市场经济国家(特别是中国)的进口征收反补贴税。美国联邦巡回上诉法院的判决判定,美国商务部政策的改变在反补贴税法下是不允许的。美国联邦巡回上诉法院这一判决的结论是基于,2006年政策的改变不被反补贴法立法历史支持,也不符合商务部之前对反补贴法一贯的不对非市场经济国家征收反补贴税的行政解释。

目前,美国有20多个对中国产品的进口征收反补贴税的法令,同时还有一些对中国进口等待进行的反补贴税调查。除非在上诉中被推翻或者通过立法改变,美国联邦巡回上诉法院的这一判决,基本上使得所有这些法令或等待进行的调查失去效力。另外,美国联邦巡回上诉法院的判决提出了一个关于自2006年底美国商务部政策发生变化以来对非市场经济国家产品的进口征收反补贴税的有效性的问题。1

新的法律

这一新的法律修改了反补贴税法,明确反补贴税可能适用于从非市场经济国家的进口。2

该法律规定,此次对反补贴税法的修改追溯适用到所有在2006年11月20日或之后提起的反补贴税程序(“2006年11月之后的反补贴税程序”)。该法律追溯生效日期的规定也批准了“美国海关和边境保护局由此发起的所有行动”,并进一步批准关于“2006年11月之后的反补贴税程序”和美国海关和边境保护局由此发起的行动的“所有民事行动、刑事程序和其他联邦法院的程序”。

目前尚不确定该新法律规定的溯及既往的效力是否会受到司法的挑战。3 反补贴税调查和由此征收的反补贴税,如果在调查和征收时违法,国会通过的法律规定的追溯效力是否能使之有效,还不确定。当事人如果已经支付了对从非市场经济国家进口征收的反补贴税,并且挑战征税的时效期间尚未届满,可以考虑挑战任何根据在新法律通过之前发起(并完成)的调查而征收的反补贴税。

该新法律也解决了因为同时征收反补贴税和反倾销税而导致的潜在的双重税收征收问题。反倾销法旨在征收税收(反倾销税)以抵消进口产品价格被视为低于基准价格的部分,基准价格理论上由出口商国内市场的价格来衡量。由于非市场经济国家的国内市场价格不被认为可以用来衡量反倾销法下的国内市场价格,美国商务部将市场经济的价格作为“替代”国内市场价格,以决定是否存在倾销,以及如果倾销存在的话应征收多少税收来抵消倾销。

理论上,用以替代非市场经济国内市场价格的替代价格不应该反映非市场经济国家的政府可能给与的补贴。由于补贴,从非市场经济国家出口的产品的价格可能更低,反补贴税的征收会导致增加征收反倾销税。因此,反倾销税可能已经考虑了非市场经济国家产品(被针对征收反补贴税)的制造者收到的任何补贴。如果在这种情况下征收反补贴税,其效果可能是两次征收抵消税收,这一救济可能过分补偿反倾销法和反补贴法解决的不公正贸易政策。这一新的法律包含消除双重税收的条文,尽管消除双重税收不是自动或直接生效,也就是说,美国商务部必须做出反补贴税收导致增加反倾销税收的决定,从而消除双重税收。

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Brian Beglin
Xiaowei Ye
Roger Joseph
Edwin Smith


1 Because of applicable laws that impose time limits for challenges to duty assessments, the time period for challenging many of these assessments may have passed, but there likely remain many assessments for which the time period for challenge has not yet expired. 
2 The new legislation explicitly provides that countervailing duties are not required if it is not possible to identify and measure subsidies because the “economy of [the NME] is essentially comprised of a single entity.”
3 According to recent press reports, the CAFC decision is still being challenged by the Obama Administration notwithstanding passage of the new legislation.

 

1 因为适用的法律对征收税收施加时效期间,对许多这些税收征收挑战的时效期间可能已经届满,但很有可能许多征收的挑战时效期间尚未届满。
2 该新的立法明确规定,如果因为“(非市场经济国家的)经济基本上是由单一实体组成”而不能确定和衡量补贴,反补贴税不被要求。
3 根据最近的新闻报道,尽管通过了这一新的法律,奥巴马政府仍在挑战美国联邦巡回上诉法院的判决。

This article was originally published by Bingham McCutchen LLP.