Shit just got weird when ITAC self-initiated an anti-dumping investigation into frozen potato chips from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, requesting the following duties:
Some history is relevant here. Grab the popcorn.
In 2013 McCain, Lambert’s Bay Foods and Nature’s Garden brought an anti-dumping application against Belgium and Netherlands. As these things go, some companies were found not to be dumping, others to a small degree and larger residual duty for everyone else. Duties were imposed and business continued. Then in 2019, McCain, on their own, requested the anti-dumping duties be extended by another 5 years (they will expire at the end of 5-years unless such a request is made). Things took their first strange turn at this point. The case was initiated with less than 2 weeks to spare before expiring, but initiate it did. Given the 1-year notice of expiry, waiting until the last minute is really risky.
When you initiate an anti-dumping case you need to provide prima facie evidence of the local selling price in the country of origin. These are not simply best guesses though. The products need to be comparable to those sold to SACU. Only the quotes used in the sunset review were anything other than comparable. Rather than providing a Belgian price for Belgium, McCain supplied a French price (no Belgium is not a province of France) and for Netherlands they provided a price for a very specialised, expensive product, not sold to SACU. As you scratch your head thinking these are easy mistakes to make, you should recall that McCain has operations in Europe and can easily obtain very accurate local prices. But rather than do this, they instead obtain retail prices off the internet. Strange, but the strange doesn’t end there.
Verification then takes place in Europe in March 2020 but is cut short as the plague descends. And then nothing for months. Many months. Before verification resumes in July 2020. Then a lot of nothing again. Until the case expires after 18 months at the end of January 2021 (an anti-dumping investigation must be concluded within 12 months, and in 18 months under exceptional circumstances). So it terminates. Only it doesn’t. The duty hangs around for 6 more months until eventually the matter is litigated and the duties are removed in July 2021.
So, what is happening now?
On 19 November 2021, ITAC self-initiated a new anti-dumping investigation into frozen potato chips against Belgium and Netherlands, but now also added Germany. Self initiation is a very strange thing indeed; it seems to be the only time in ITAC’s 18 year-history when this happened. I must assume voices were raised and fingers were wagged when an excessively sweating, hyperventilating Commission decided to self-initiate this investigation.
In a bold. move, ITAC decided to use the local prices from the sunset review for Belgium and Netherlands, even though these fall outside the defined investigation period (July 2020 to June 2021). For Germany, they got prices from online retailers (perhaps even in Germany this time – we will know more when we have sight of the full application), but also outside of the investigation period.
Although Belgium accounted for 78% of the total imports, their volume has fallen from 18 353 tons in July 2018 to June 2019 to 15 861 tons in July 2020 to June 2021 (a fall of 14% over the 3-year period). It is not clear how dumped imports from Belgium and Netherlands could have caused injury in the period of investigation as the domestic industry benefited from anti-dumping duties for the full period. Nevertheless, here we are.
Popcorn down. Grab a few beers. This is going to be a wild ride.
If you wish to respond, you have until 17 December 2021 to file your submission.
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