(Adds response from Argentina to the third paragraph)
By Eric Walsh and Michael Hirtzer
WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department on Thursday said it set final anti-subsidy duties on biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia, pushing soyoil futures to a two-month high even though the decision was expected.
The final duties for soy-based Argentine biodiesel were even higher than preliminary countervailing rates set in August, when imports ground to a virtual halt as Argentine exporters said the tariffs priced them out of the U.S. market.
Argentina’s foreign ministry said that unless the decision is reversed, it might take the dispute to the World Trade Organization - echoing a promise by Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Tuesday.
Argentine biofuel industry group Carbio said the decision confirmed the U.S. market was closed to Argentine producers and would complicate recent economic reforms in the South American nation.
The duties range from 71.45 percent to 72.28 percent on Argentine biodiesel, Commerce said in a statement, up from preliminary rates of 50.29 percent to 64.17 percent. Countries set countervailing duties to counteract the effect of other nations’ subsidies for certain goods.
Final anti-subsidy rates for palm oil biodiesel from Indonesia were set at 34.45 percent to 64.73 percent, below the range of 41.06 percent to 68.28 percent set in August.
The duties follow proposed anti-dumping duties for both countries’ biodiesel announced in October.
U.S. biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia in 2016 were an estimated $1.2 billion and $268 million, respectively, department figures show.
“We appreciate that these unfair subsidies are being addressed, so we can fix this particular obstacle to continued growth in the domestic industry,” Doug Whitehead, chief operating officer of the U.S. National Biodiesel Board, a trade group that asked the government to impose the duties in March.
Biodiesel is used by itself or with petroleum-based diesel mainly as a motor fuel.
Futures for soyoil, the most common feedstock used for U.S. biodiesel, hit a two-month high of 35.44 cents per pound. But prices reversed later, fell 0.23 cent to 35.14 cents.
“It was anticipated. It was built in and talked about,” a U.S. soyoil trader said of the announcement. Soyoil and soybean futures were pressured by a U.S. Department of Agriculture report that estimated a record-large U.S. soy crop.
For final duties to take effect, the U.S. International Trade Commission must find the imports cause harm to U.S. producers. It is scheduled to hold its final injury vote on subsidies on Dec. 5.
In the separate antidumping investigation, Commerce is expected to issue a final ruling in early January, followed by another injury determination by the ITC. (Reporting by Eric Walsh in Washington, Michael Hirtzer in Chicago and Caroline Staufer in Buenos Aires; Editing by Tim Ahmann, James Dalgleish and Diane Craft)