Solar tariffs upheld on Chinese manufacturers

Tariffs on Chinese solar panels were upheld by the Obama administration’s Commerce Department on Oct. 10 as disputes between the United States and China over renewable energy manufacturing heat up.

The department called for anti-dumping duties of 31.73% on imports of solar photovoltaic cells and panels from Suntech, 18.32% from Trina Solar, 25.96% from other companies that had requested but not received individual duty determinations and 249.96% from all other Chinese producers.

The duties were reduced for some companies from the preliminary decision and increased slightly for others.

A final decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission is expected on Nov. 7 when it must decide if Chinese practices have materially injured U.S. manufacturers. That same body upheld preliminary duties by unanimous vote in the spring.

The ruling rebuffed the petitioning companies’ request to expand the duties to panels only partially manufactured in China and in third countries.

“We are gratified that the scope of today’s decision is limited only to solar cells made in China and that the Department did not significantly increase the tariff from its preliminary decision in May,” said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. “We are hopeful that continued innovations in technology, a competitive global marketplace, and demand-generated pressure for lower prices will take precedence moving forward. At the same time, we remain concerned about the growing global trade war, which will only hurt American solar industry jobs, growth and consumers.”

The case began last October when a coalition of manufacturers the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing., led by the American subsidiary of German-based SolarWorld filed complaints with the federal government. SolarWorld said its coalition grew from eight original members to 226 companies employing about 18,000 American workers.  

“SolarWorld and CASM have fought only to give the solar-pioneering domestic industry a fair chance to continue to compete by removing China’s trade distortions from the U.S. market,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., based in Oregon.  “Only fair competition can provide sustainable gains in technological efficiency, cost reduction and end-user pricing. Commerce’s decision raises the industry’s chances of reclaiming equal footing for domestic, sustainable and environmentally sound solar-technology producers and their jobs.”

Those cases include duties imposed on Chinese wind tower manufacturers and most recently, an executive order by Obama requiring Chinese national to divest their ownership of four Oregon wind farms close to a naval aircraft training facility.

“Commerce’s announcement will likely raise already-high tensions between the US and China over subsidies and trade in green goods,” says White & Case International Trade Attorney Scott Lincicome, who is the author of a new Cato Institute paper on US subsidy and CVD policy. “It will inevitably lead to a rhetorical rebuke from Beijing and a reminder that China is challenging US anti-subsidy policy at the World Trade Organization and in US courts.”