In an earlier post, we examined the U.S. Court of International Trade’s (CIT) opinion in which it sustained the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (“Commerce”) shift of position on antidumping duties for frozen fish fillets from Vietnam.
Two recently filed complaints brought before the CIT, however, have challenged Commerce’s application of antidumping duties to certain separate-rate respondents. The plaintiffs in the respective complaints, various Vietnamese fish fillet producers, allege that Commerce has improperly assigned them a duty rate from an outdated, prior review.
In the most recent administrative review of antidumping duties on Vietnamese fish fillets, Commerce calculated certain duties based on the sole mandatory respondent, GODACO Seafood Joint Stock Company (“GODACO”). Commerce determined that GODACO failed to cooperate to the best of its ability and, accordingly, assigned duty rate of $2.39 per kilogram of fillets based on the adverse facts available. Commerce preliminarily applied this same antidumping duty to all non-mandatory respondents, including the plaintiff companies.
When Commerce released the final results of its administrative review on March 23, 2018, however, the plaintiff companies were assigned an antidumping duty of $3.87 per kilogram, the antidumping duty rate set as part of a new shipper review completed more than five years ago.
In the Decision Memorandum accompanying the results, Commerce asserted that it was bound to “pull forward” the prior duty rate under the CIT’s decision in Albemarle Corp. v. United States, Case No. 2015-1288, 2015-1289, 2015-1290 (May 2, 2016). The plaintiff companies dispute the application of Albemarle, asserting that they have been unreasonably and punitively assigned a duty rate which exceeds the most recent antidumping duty by more than a dollar. Moreover, the plaintiff companies note that duty rate assigned to them based on their status as separate-rate respondents is now higher than other Vietnamese companies who did not respond or cooperate with U.S. authorities in any way.
Commerce has not yet filed its response defending this alleged departure from agency practice. If Commerce’s response relies on Albemarle as controlling precedent, however, it could signal a significant shift in the Department’s policies.