DOC Ruling on Aircraft from Canada Ups Tension Amid NAFTA Talks

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The U.S. Department of Commerce. qingwa/Adobe Stock

The U.S. Department of Commerce has recently issued preliminary determinations in countervailing duty (CVD) and antidumping investigations of imports from Japan, China, Romania, Kazakhstan and others.

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Last week, the department added Canada to the list, dropping a major countervailing duty on imports of large civil aircraft. The move, coincidentally, came just before the third round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation talks, which wrapped up Sept. 27 in Ottawa.

The Department of Commerce issued a preliminary determination early last week in its CVD investigation of imports of 100- to 150-seat large civil aircraft from Canada, resulting in a whopping 219.63% tariff on the CSeries of planes exported to the U.S. by Bombardier, Inc.

“The U.S. values its relationships with Canada, but even our closest allies must play by the rules,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a prepared statement. “The subsidization of goods by foreign governments is something that the Trump Administration takes very seriously, and we will continue to evaluate and verify the accuracy of this preliminary determination.”

According to the Department of Commerce’s preliminary ruling, exporters of the aircraft received countervailable subsidies of 219.63%.

The Commerce Department will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect cash deposits from importers of 100- to 150-seat large civil aircraft based on these preliminary rates.

The Boeing Company was the petitioner in the case. Petitions were filed April 27.

The ruling is a big win for Boeing — if it holds, that is — which as Bloomberg reported late last week, has developed an unlikely positive relationship with President Donald Trump.

However, as NAFTA negotiations unfold, such a move is sure to increase tensions. According to a recent Ipsos poll, just 33% of Canadians said renegotiating NAFTA was a good thing, compared with 48% of Americans and 46% of Mexicans — indicating, to an extent, that Canada is happy with the current order of business (of course, it’s just one poll).

Naturally, imposition of a nearly 220% tariff on any product, let alone large aircraft, is going to be a big deal. Bombardier’s stock dropped $0.07 from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, from $1.82 to $.175 (a 3.7% drop). Boeing, meanwhile, closed at $253.70 on the New York Stock Exchange Sept. 26, compared to a closing price of $256 on Monday.

According to a Reuters report, threats of retaliation from Quebec were already being heard late last week.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard took the Commerce Department’s preliminary ruling very seriously.

“Boeing may have won a battle but, let me tell you, the war is far from over. And we will win,” Couillard said, according to the Reuters report.

The ruling is only preliminary, but it certainly ratchets up tensions in what has already been a NAFTA dialogue fraught with tension, in large part a result of the accelerated negotiating schedule.

In addition, the ruling is not the first one this year to target Canadian imports. On June 26, the department issued a preliminary ruling calling for duties of 30.88% to 17.41% on imports of softwood lumber from Canada.

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The Department of Commerce has launched 68 antidumping or CVD investigations this year between Jan. 20 and Sept. 20, representing a 45% increase in cases from the same time frame last year, according to the department’s release.

A final CVD determination in the investigation is scheduled for Dec. 12.

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