US Solar PV Trade Group Seeks To Widen Scope Of China Import Duties

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The Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) is looking to widen the scope of recently imposed duties on imports of silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels manufactured in China. A coalition of some 230 US solar energy industry participants, CASM on February 1 filed appeals with the US Court of International Trade in New York, the main thrust of which are to close loopholes that industry group members say are being exploited by Chinese PV manufacturers in order to avoid paying the import duties.

Capping a year-long investigation, the US Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission (ITC) last November determined that Chinese manufacturers were dumping product on the US market and benefiting from government subsidies that violated World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. The imposition of import duties ranging from 24% to 250% was limited to silicon PV cells and panels manufactured in China.

Excluding silicon PV cells manufactured outside of China but assembled into panels in China created a loophole that Chinese PV manufacturers are taking advantage of. US manufacturers of silicon PV cells and panels continue to operate at a competitive disadvantage as a result, which also limits and threatens job creation, CASM asserts.

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Expanding the Scope of Chinese Import Duties

Having grown into vertically integrated businesses that dominate the world market for silicon PV cells and panels, Chinese manufacturers are fabricating silicon crystals, producing solar silicon waters, and are outsourcing conversion of the wafers into silicon PV cells to companies in Taiwan before importing them back into China for assembly into panels that are then being exported to the US.

“With our cases, the US government went a long way in investigating and attempting to halt the anti-competitive and destructive impacts of China’s illegal trade practices on America’s domestic solar industry,” stated Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, the largest US manufacturer of silicon PV modules and the driving force behind CASM. “Now we are looking to finish the job. American jobs depend on it.”

As CASM points out, “the bipartisan US International Trade Commission (ITC) voted 6-0 that China’s trade practices were harming US manufacturing. More than 25 solar manufacturers of all kinds have dramatically downsized, filed for bankruptcy, or quit the business since 2010.”

US imports of Chinese-made silicon PV cells and panels have fallen sharply since the imposition of the duties. Contrary to expectations, that hasn’t stopped the declining trend in solar PV prices. On the contrary, they continue to fall, at least to date.

Amid globalization, CASM’s international trade petitions are but one aspect of the increasingly complex economic and trade relationship between China and the US, as a series of posts on sister site The Inspired Economist highlight. In addition to widening the scope of the import duties, CASM’s appeals also challenge decisions not to investigate Chinese government subsides on aluminium extrusions and rolled glass, “which the Department of Commerce has found in other, similar cases to be illegally subsidized and dumped in the U.S. market.”

The trade group is also challenging the imposition of lower import duties for several large Chinese silicon PV manufacturers, such as Trina Solar, Hanwha SolarOne, Chint Solar, and JA Solar. They should not have qualified for the lower duty rates “because they failed to provide sufficient evidence that they wer not ultimately owned or controlled by the Chinese government,” CASM asserts.

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