* Bill overturns appeals court ruling in December
* Court ruled against US duties on about two dozen goods
* Obama expected to sign bill
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, March 6 The House of
Representatives on Tuesday voted 370-39 to ensure the United
States can impose duties on subsidized goods from China and
Vietnam, a move the White House said was needed to protect
The bill, which overturns a recent court ruling, now goes to
President Barack Obama to sign it into law. The Senate passed
the legislation on Monday, in a rare display of bipartisan
cooperation, just days after it was introduced.
"China distorts the free market by giving enormous subsidies
to its producers and exporters, and our companies and workers
should not be expected to compete against the deep pockets of
the Chinese government," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman
Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said during debate.
Vice President Joe Biden praised Congress for taking "a
clear stand against the unfair trade practices that have put
countless American jobs in jeopardy."
The Obama administration helped craft the bipartisan bill
after an appeals court ruled in December the U.S. Commerce
Department did not have authority to impose countervailing - or
anti-subsidy - duties on goods from "non-market economies".
The decision endangered countervailing duties on about two
dozen goods from China and Vietnam worth more than $4 billion
in trade, as well as potential new duties in cases involving
solar panels and wind turbine towers from China.
U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said current duties
protect tens of thousands of jobs at more than 80 companies in
38 states. They cover steel, aluminum, paper, chemicals and
other goods from China and plastic shopping bags from Vietnam.
"With this bill, we are making clear that the Federal
Circuit's decision was wrong and it cannot stand," said
Representative Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways
and Means Committee.
The vote gave both Republicans and Democrats a chance to
show they are being tough on China, which many Americans see as
an unfair trader. Last year, U.S. imports from China totaled a
record $399.3 billion.
CHINA BASHING A BIPARTISAN SPORT
Some trade lawyers predicted it would lead to industry
groups filing more trade cases against China.
"It's interesting to note that Congress can't agree on most
anything, but can agree to bash China," said William Perry, an
international trade partner at Dorsey & Whitney in Seattle.
The bill steers clear of the more politically divisive issue
of China's currency, which many lawmakers believe Beijing
deliberately undervalues to give its companies an unfair price
advantage in international trade.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed legislation last
year to pressure Beijing on the issue, but the
Republican-dominated House has refused to take up the measure on
the grounds it could start a trade war.
The conservative group Club for Growth, which is influential
with the Tea Party movement, lobbied against the bill, which it
said would increase the price of imported goods.
On Tuesday, it blasted the measure as a "tax increase" after
the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would raise $160
million in new revenue over 10 years.
For years, the Commerce Department did not impose
countervailing duties on non-market economies like China and
Vietnam on the grounds it was impossible to measure subsidies in
countries where the state played such a dominant role.
That changed in the mid-2000s, when industry groups
persuaded the administration of then-President George W. Bush
that China had advanced enough that it was possible to calculate
subsidies. However, the groups did not want Commerce to take the
additional step of designating China as a market economy because
that could potentially adversely affect how another type of
trade remedy, antidumping duties, are calculated.
China contested the policy change both at the World Trade
Organization and through the U.S. court system.
At the WTO, it won a decision that the United States was
"double counting" many Chinese subsidies when it applied both
countervailing and antidumping duties on the same good.
Then in December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit ruled the Bush administration should have obtained
legislation from Congress to make the policy change because the
previous practice of not applying countervailing duties to
non-market economies had become embedded in U.S. law.
The bill addresses the double counting issue to make sure
U.S. countervailing duties against non-market economies do not
violate WTO rules, lawmakers said.