US Agency Confirms Final Duties on China, Taiwan Solar Products

29 January 2015

The US International Trade Commission (US ITC) said late last week that allegedly unfair trade practices by Chinese and Taiwanese solar product manufacturers had indeed caused material injury to US producers, ensuring that Washington would be levying hefty duties in response.

The vote by the US agency on 21 January is the final step in an investigation that began a year ago in response to petitions filed by SolarWorld Industries America, Inc., which had alleged that Chinese producers were skirting a set of existing duties on these products, specifically by using foreign-made cells in their production processes.

The US Commerce Department had already determined the level of these duties in December, after confirming the presence of both dumping and unfair subsidies. The products under investigation involved modules, laminates, and/or panels made using crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. Those goods already covered by the 2012 duties were not part of the probe. (See Bridges Weekly, 18 December 2014)

The anti-dumping probe had involved both China and Taiwan, focusing on whether imports from these countries had been sold in the US at prices below their normal value. The dumping margins were set between 26.71 and 165.04 percent for Chinese products and from 11.45 to 27.55 percent for Taiwanese goods.

The countervailing duty investigation had targeted only Chinese producers, regarding whether they had been the recipients of illegal state aid. These subsidies were determined in December to be between 27.64 to 49.70 percent.

All five of the six US ITC commissioners who voted approved the duties on China, while the Taiwan duties received four votes in favour and one against.

Approval by the US agency is necessary for the US Commerce Department to impose final duties; had the US ITC voted in the negative, the duties previously approved by the Commerce Department would not go into force.

The US ITC announcement was widely expected, in light of the previous Commerce Department findings. Responding to the news, SolarWorld’s US President Mukesh Dulani praised the vote as giving American solar manufacturers “additional certainty” as they work to establish new facilities or build upon existing ones.

“This additional capacity will help us meet the need in the market for American-made solar,” Dulani added, suggesting that it could lead to increased jobs and economic growth.

Other voices in the US solar sector were more critical of the news. Jigar Shah, President of the Coalition for Affordable Energy (CASE), called the US ITC vote “disappointing,” warning that it could make solar power more costly for US consumers and have a negative impact on the American solar sector.

CASE is a group that is said to represent several solar companies, such as project developers and installers, which use these types of imports from China and Taiwan in their manufacturing processes.

“It’s particularly troubling that US trade policy is working to increase the cost of solar products through tariffs when we know that more affordable solar energy creates more American solar jobs,” Shah said, calling for governments from the countries involved to continue efforts toward a negotiated solution.

Chinese officials, for their part, have warned that moving forward with these duties will only serve to hamper the development of the American solar sector, rather than improve it, according to comments reported by Bloomberg. Beijing reportedly pledged it would act to protect its own interests, both within Washington and under the WTO system.

ICTSD reporting; “China Says U.S. Solar Ruling Will Hurt Clean Energy Development,” BLOOMBERG, 21 January 2015; “U.S. solar product trade ruling opens way to import duties on China, Taiwan,” REUTERS, 21 January 2015.

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