Australia Launches Trade Probe into Chinese Solar Imports

22 May 2014

Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission has launched an investigation into allegations that Chinese companies have been dumping crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and modules on the domestic market, officials announced last week. 

The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by Tindo Manufacturing Pty Ltd, a manufacturer of PV modules and panels. In its application, the South Australia-based company claims that certain Chinese solar equipment has been exported to Australia and sold at prices below normal market value – a practice known in trade jargon as dumping.  

The products cited in the investigation include certain crystalline silicon PV modules and panels, regardless of whether these are exported assembled or non-assembled.

Excluded from the probe are the wafers and cells used in these modules and panels; portable solar chargers consisting of less than six cells that are used to charge batteries or provide electricity to devices; and PV products that are permanently integrated into electrical goods not used for power generation.

According to the Commission’s official announcement, Tindo claims that the alleged dumping of these PV modules and panels has caused material injury to the Australian industry, namely through the loss of sales revenue, price depression and suppression, loss of profit, and reduced profitability.

The investigation will focus on the period of 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2013. Should the Australian agency find evidence of dumping and related material injury, the Parliamentary Secretary may impose interim dumping duties and retrospective notices for past dumping.

A recommendation on possible duties to the Parliamentary Secretary must be issued by 16 October of this year, unless the Commission decides to terminate the probe.

“We are passionate about creating new and innovative manufacturing jobs in this country and we are supportive of any initiative that embeds a fair go and a fair market place for Australian manufacturers,” said Richard Inwood, Tindo’s manager of people and business, in response to the Commission decision.

Growing solar demand

Analysts such as TrendForce, a firm headquartered in Taiwan, note that while Australia’s domestic demand for solar power is expected to reach an estimated 1.2 GW of generation capacity this year, its domestic production capacity is only around 100MW, with imported modules needed to supply the balance.

Over two-thirds of  Australian module imports come from China, and some analysts say that the potential duties could present problems for downstream producers that use these modules in solar energy projects.

The announcement of the Australian probe is one of a series seen in recent years that focused on China’s booming renewable energy sector.

The EU and the US have had their own disputes with Beijing regarding imported solar products. In a high-profile case last year, the EU imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panel imports, later reaching a “price undertaking” deal with Beijing that set minimum prices and volume limits, in exchange for Chinese producers being exempted from the duties.

A separate trade probe on imports of solar glass from the Asian country is still ongoing. (See Bridges Weekly, 8 May 2013).

Across the Atlantic, the US Commerce Department opened an investigation in February into Chinese and Taiwanese solar trade practices, following allegations that Chinese producers are avoiding existing anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese PV solar imports by using cells that are made in Taiwan. (See Bridges Weekly, 7 February 2014)

ICTSD reporting; “Australia to Launch PV Anti-Dumping Investigation,” PV TECH, 15 May 2014; “Anti-Dumping Commission to Investigate Chinese Solar Panels,” THE AUSTRALIAN, 16 May 2014.

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