U.S. slaps duties on China wind towers as high-level talks begin


The United States on Tuesday pressed forward with plans to slap steep punitive duties on wind turbine towers from China, keeping up friction on the clean energy front as it welcomed a high-level Chinese delegation for trade and economic talks.

The U.S. Commerce Department set final anti-dumping duties ranging from 44.99 to 70.63 percent on utility-scale towers manufactured in China to offset what it said was unfairly low pricing and additional countervailing duties of 21.86 to 34.81 percent to combat Chinese government subsidies.

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The department also slapped final anti-dumping duties of 51.40 to 58.49 percent on wind towers from Vietnam.

A U.S. trade panel has final approval over the duties and is expected to vote on the case in late January.

The action came as a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan was in Washington for the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting, a high-level bilateral forum to address barriers to trade and investment.

Wang will attend a dinner on Tuesday evening hosted by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and is expected to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday morning.

The main meeting on Wednesday takes place against the backdrop of high-stakes negotiations between President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that begin early next year.

The White House is also pushing for an increase in the nation's $16.4 trillion statutory debt cap as part of any deal. The U.S. Treasury expects to reach the debt ceiling by year-end and will likely run out of options to free up more borrowing capacity by sometime in February, risking a potential default.

China is the United States' largest creditor, giving it a deep interest in Washington's budget debate.

U.S. companies are not expecting sweeping new commitments from China from Wednesday's meeting, but are hoping for action on longstanding concerns ranging from Chinese barriers to U.S. farm products to policies that pressure U.S. companies to transfer valuable technology to China to do business there.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Dan Grebler)