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UPDATE 2-U.S. defers China aluminum foil dumping decision

(Adding comment and background in 5th and 11th paragraphs)

WASHINGTON, Oct 5(Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday it would defer issuing its preliminary determination in an anti-dumping duty probe into imports of aluminum foil from China.

The department said in a statement the delay would allow it "to fully analyze information pertaining to China's status as a non-market economy (NME) country."

U.S. aluminum foil producers have filed petitions with the U.S. government accusing Chinese manufacturers of dumping the product in the United States. In 2016, imports of aluminum foil from China were valued at an estimated $389 million, department figures show.

In August, U.S. Commerce imposed preliminary anti-subsidy duties of about 17 percent to 81 percent on aluminum foil imported from China.

The Aluminum Association, a U.S. industry lobby group which filed the suit, was disappointed by the delay, but remained confident in the strength of its case, President and Chief Executive Officer Heidi Brock said in a statement.

When it opened the probe in late March, the Commerce Department said it was also launching a review of whether China should be treated as a market economy country, a designation that would effectively limit the calculation of anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made goods..

The terms of China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 allowed other WTO members to use a third country's prices to assess whether Chinese goods were being sold below cost or fair market value.

That clause expired last December and China has called on the United States and the European Union to drop their use of such surrogate pricing, which has led to higher U.S. anti-dumping duties on imported Chinese goods.

"In all cases, the Department conducts a full and fair assessment of the facts," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. "This extension will ensure that the highest standards are followed in this case as we seek to guarantee fair treatment for U.S. workers and businesses."

Commerce said it would issue its preliminary determination in the aluminum foil case - along with a decision on China's non-market economy status - by Nov. 30. A final duty determination is expected 75 days later.

The postponement comes after data last month showed China's exports of semi-finished aluminum goods, including foil, fell for a third straight month as manufacturers struggled to find alternative markets. (Reporting by Eric Walsh and David Lawder; Additional reporting by Josephine Mason in BEIJING; Editing by Sandra Maler, Peter Cooney and Tom Hogue)