ITC affirms China solar tariffs

The U.S. International Trade Commission upheld tariffs on solar cells manufactured in China to resolve a year-long dispute, but refused to take the additional punitive step to make them retroactive.

The 6-0 vote ratified preliminary duties that were recommended by the U.S. Commerce Department on Oct. 10. Suntech was hit by combined duties of about 36% and Trina Solar was sanctioned at 23.75%. Other companies face duties of from 31% to 250%. The ruling is in effect for five years.

“Today’s unanimous vote by the International Trade Commission confirms what has been apparent in the marketplace for the past two years – Chinese manufacturers, with the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government, have attempted to game the international trading system in order to gain a virtual monopoly on solar cells and modules sales in the U.S. market,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., based in Oregon, and the leader of the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM).

CASM said Chinese dumping caused more than a dozen companies to shut down manufacturing facilities or significantly cut back production and employment in the United States.

“Although this ruling was anticipated given the ITC’s low threshold for injury determinations, we are nevertheless disappointed that they have left in place the Commerce Department’s tariffs on solar cell imports,” said Jigar Shah, head of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which opposed the trade complaint, which it termed a “politically charged case.”

But the ITC determined that “critical circumstances” did not exist, which would have made duties retroactive 90 days before the Commerce Department issued its preliminary ruling. Preliminary duties were set in March on the illegal subsidy part of the case; dumping duties were preliminarily set in May.

The case began October of 2011 when a coalition of manufacturers 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.  

CASE said the case has already sparked the beginning of a global trade war over solar, with investigations and complaints spreading from the U.S., to China and Europe.