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U.S. slaps duties on Vietnamese tires over undervalued currency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department on Thursday slapped preliminary countervailing duties of 6.23% to 10.08% on imported light vehicle tires from Vietnam, applying for the first time a new rule to combat undervalued currencies.

Vietnam has been on Washington’s watchlist of currency manipulators because of its trade surplus with the United States, a large current account surplus and a perception that its central bank has been actively buying foreign currency.

The new duties will apply to imported passenger vehicle and light truck tire imports of $469.6 million annually, with a final injury determination due by April 30 next year, Commerce said in a statement.

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said last month that the Southeast Asian country’s exchange rate policy was not aimed at helping its exports and told U.S. Trade Representative officials to ask that President Donald Trump adopt “a more objective assessment of the reality in Vietnam”.

“Vietnam has been following this issue since the investigation was launched,” deputy foreign ministry spokesman Duong Hoai Nam said on Thursday, in response to questions on the new duties.

“Vietnam will continue to coordinate with U.S. authorities to clarify and better understand the situation and protect the legitimate interests of Vietnamese businesses in accordance with World Trade Organization regulations,” Nam said.

The U.S. Commerce Department is also conducting anti-dumping duty investigations of light vehicle tires from Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand and said it expects to announce those preliminary results on Dec. 29.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Lawder; Additional reporting by Khanh Vu in Hanoi; Editing by Tom Brown and James Pearson

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