HILLSBORO, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)— SolarWorld, the largest U.S. solar producer for more than 35 years, cheered the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) today for its unanimous final finding that illegally subsidized and dumped Chinese imports of crystalline silicon solar cells and panels have hurt domestic manufacturers.
The decision, along with all major preceding rulings, validates the central contention of SolarWorld’s trade cases that the government of China is staging an illegal, anticompetitive export drive at the expense of U.S. manufacturing and jobs, the company said.
However, the company said in light of China’s apparent determination to prop up its excessive production capacity at any cost, it would continue to pursue all relevant options to address China’s improper trade practices. The goal, according to the company, is to revive the domestic industry, fair competition and economic growth in the U.S. solar-manufacturing market at a time when demand is robustly expanding.
The 6-0 vote by the ITC will activate final anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports that the U.S. Department of Commerce issued in October, ranging from a combined rate of about 24 percent up to more than 250 percent, depending on the company, according to SolarWorld. The ITC determination is the final step in the trade case investigations, among the biggest brought against China, filed in October 2011.
“U.S. producers are grateful for the diligence that the ITC and its staff invested in this complex case at the crossroads of the world’s energy future,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., based in Oregon. “The vote comes too late for hundreds of American workers laid off from more than two dozen U.S. factories that China’s state-sponsored export campaign drove into financial peril. But the decision offers some hope to survivors that China might be held accountable to its legal obligations and that this U.S.-pioneered industry might see a fair chance to play a growing role in the nation’s energy independence.”
For example, SolarWorld said it has pulled further ahead as the world technology leader, offering a 270-watt, 60-cell panel – the world’s first – as it invests yet another $27 million in technological and manufacturing advances in its Oregon plant and $62 million in its plants worldwide. The addition brings SolarWorld’s total investment in Oregon to more than $610 million without federal subsidies to support development of its operations there, according to the company.
“While SolarWorld continues to innovate, the Chinese government has doubled-down on its trade-distorting practices,” Brinser said. “It is bailing out individual companies, keeping afloat massive excesses of production capacity and otherwise continuing to intervene in the U.S. market by underwriting a no-holds-barred export drive. Moreover, under government support, Chinese companies are pursuing ways to circumvent duties, partly by availing themselves of a loophole that Commerce created when it redefined the scope of SolarWorld’s cases.
“SolarWorld will continue to fight for a clean, legal and competitive domestic industry.”
Supported by the 227-employer Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, SolarWorld said the cases aimed to stop the Chinese government from investing massive improper subsidies to underwrite its solar industry’s export campaign and dump products, or sell them at artificially low prices, to seize U.S. market share.
Just as the solar industry reached a tipping point into mainstream adoption, SolarWorld said, China launched its export drive into the U.S. solar market, as part of its central five-year planning process targeting emerging “strategic industries.” The Chinese industry enjoyed neither a background in the industry nor any technological, production or cost advantage. Rather, it was the object of the Chinese government’s export goals.
On Oct. 10, Commerce called for anti-dumping duties of 31.73 percent on imports of solar photovoltaic cells and panels from Suntech, 18.32 percent from Trina Solar, 25.96 percent from other companies that had requested but not received individual duty determinations and 249.96 percent from all other Chinese producers, including those controlled by the Chinese government. In addition, the department recommended anti-subsidy duties of 14.78 percent for imports made by Suntech, 15.97 percent Trina Solar and 15.24 percent for all other Chinese manufacturers.
Commerce’s scope covers photovoltaic cells produced or assembled into panels in China but not panels made from cells produced in third countries, creating a loophole for Chinese producers to get around duties. SolarWorld’s initial, broader scope had covered all cells and panels produced in China.
SolarWorld submitted its trade cases on behalf of a coalition of seven domestic manufacturers, including Helios Solar Works of Wisconsin and MX Solar USA of New Jersey. Thereafter, the coalition in favor of sustainable production, domestic manufacturing and trade free of illegal foreign government intervention swelled to 227 solar-industry companies employing more than 18,000 American workers. More than 85 percent of CASM members are downstream operators, such as installers and financiers.