U.S. ethanol groups decry EU tariff as 'blatant protectionism'

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:26pm EST

WASHINGTON Feb 19 (Reuters) - Two biofuels trade groups on Tuesday lambasted a European Union decision to impose a tariff on U.S.-made ethanol as a protectionist move and said they would challenge the tariff "in every way possible."

The 9.5 percent tariff on imports of U.S. ethanol was approved on Monday by the Council of the European Union. The imports were worth more than $930 million, or 700 million euros, a year.

"This is blatant protectionism at its worst," trade groups Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy said in a joint statement. They said the rare country-wide tariff was not based on facts.

EU officials say U.S. ethanol is being sold at unfairly low prices due to subsidies.

"We will challenge this policy in every manner possible," the groups said .

U.S. ethanol production is down sharply due to record-high corn prices and weak domestic demand for gasoline. At recent rates of production, output could be 8 percent below the U.S. target for use.

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