Clean Power

Published on July 26th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


US Department of Commerce Ignores WTO, Imposes Preliminary Anti-Dumping Tariffs of 26-165%

July 26th, 2014 by  

china solar panelsThe global solar trade wars are myopic at best, and downright criminal at worst. Various countries around the world have been working to bring down the cost of solar power, and that has happened at a very good clip. Chinese solar cell and solar panel manufacturers have been very helpful, bringing the costs to record lows, and they have likely received a bit of support from the Chinese government. The US government and other governments have also supported their manufacturers. Yet, under bankruptcy threat, a handful of no longer competitive solar manufacturers in the US and Europe instigated efforts to put anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese technology. The results haven’t been pretty.

Without any legitimate willingness to compromise on the topic, the trade attack has gone on for a few years now. In response, China has started its own attack on polysilicon imports from the US (and South Korea). Recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) came out and stated that the US tariffs on Chinese solar modules, steel products, and other exports were inconsistent with obligations under the 1994 Marrakesh accord. Nonetheless, the US Department of Commerce has just imposed preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on solar cells and solar modules produced in China (or Taiwan). The tariffs range from 26-165%.

This is on top of anti-subsidy tariffs imposed on such products about one month ago. The anti-dumping and combined anti-dumping + anti-subsidy tariffs for some specific Chinese companies are as follows:

  • Yingli, Canadian Solar, Hanwha SolarOne: 42.33% / 47.27%
  • Trina Solar: 26.33% / 29.30%
  • Wuxi Suntech: 42.33% / 49.24%
  • Companies not named due to “adverse facts” (for example, for not cooperating with the investigations): 165.04% / 197%

The final ruling will come around December 16th, 2014, and an International Trade Commission confirmation around January 29th, 2015.

Overall, GTM Research projects that these penalties on Chinese solar products will result in an increase in cost of about 14%. Needless to say, solar power installers in the US are not happy with these tariffs. Given that they make up the bulk of the 120,000+ solar jobs in the country, this has been a hotly opposed target. The leading company behind the tariffs is Germany-based SolarWorld, which has some manufacturing facilities in Washington state.

I do understand the point of anti-dumping tariffs. If a company or country artificially lowers the price of a product without actually lowering its costs and it kills off competitors that are actually have more cost-effective products, it can stifle technological and manufacturing advancement in the country. However, practically every major country in the world has supported its solar manufacturers, in a variety of ways, and at this point in the fight against global warming, what we need is a global effort to bring down the costs of solar (which is going to happen most as manufacturing scales up). What we don’t need is countries fighting companies from other countries in order to protect a few vested interests and their lobbyists.

Image: China solar panels via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • very good article, i certainly enjoy this site, continue it.

  • Natch. Thx

  • jburt56

    Tariffs, judicially applied, can restore geo-economic balance.

    • So you think the the US’s hegemonic economic plundering of the world’s resources is “balance”?

      • jburt56

        The US has a trade deficit that needs to be balanced.

        • No way

          Ehum… oil imports is almost 15% of the US total imports. If you really wanted to balance the trade deficit then you would buy every solar panel China would sell you, put a ban on F-150’s and such and make sure every car sold is an EV or at least PHEV.
          Puting up artificial walls demanded by inferior companies won’t solve anything.

          • jburt56

            No problem, the Chinese companies are welcome to manufacture here.

          • Offgridman

            Where the Chinese manufacturer and or so called deficit are really moot points as concerns American jobs and our being financially solvent enough to take care of our infrastructure and people.
            The real issues with this country being broke are the amounts of money spent on military actions over the past forty or more years trying to tell the rest of the world how to live and what to do. While almost simultaneously allowing our corporations to move their manufacturing over seas to avoid taxation, and more recently even letting them move their offices and or headquarters overseas to avoid the same minimized taxation Instituted in the name of trickle down economics.
            If the US had spent the last fifty years taking care of its own problems and own backyard we wouldn’t be worried about the petty amount of Chinese panels that are actually imported and the very small part of our economy they actually constitute. This is all just another political ploy by the fossil fuel interests attempting to keep the cost of solar unnaturally inflated so as to slow its spread in the US and protect their failing business model.
            I have been around long enough to have seen these same games played out over and over, so would like to congratulate you for falling for this latest scam of how Chinese panels are going to ruin our economy, it is far from being the real issue with our finances. Just the latest attention getter by the rich and corporate interests to keep you distracted from what they are actually doing to our country.

          • jburt56

            It’s not just manufacturing but the process engineering, research and development, etc. Read this from Intel’s Andy Grove–


          • Offgridman

            Would be happy to check it out but with two different browsers get ‘page not found’
            Think I understand what you are getting at though, and when I wrote manufacturing meant that the associated engineering and research went with it.
            The new problem that I was referring to is that as of the start of this year over half of our businesses have moved their corporate offices overseas even if it is just a address and phone number listed in the Cayman Islands with the same address being shared by hundreds of them. So all of the taxes from their profits are lost from the general budget needed to run the US, and some times giving them preferential treatment when it comes to bidding processes for federal or open contract work because of the assumed extra expense of being a foreign business that is actually located here. This is getting to be very common practice for companies doing internet related work, and as I assume Andy Grove might be pointing out our electronics and computer related industries.
            Our whole economic and political system is sick from the influences of the money generated within those systems and the problems with our economy and having federal debt is much more due to our own mistakes rather than the success of any overseas businesses.
            Our economy was working and growing wonderfully back in the fifties or even early sixties when tax rates on the rich and businesses or corporations were way higher and we could afford to build our state and federal highway systems and the space program with all of their concurrent benefits. But through the years we have let those with the money influence and control the rule makers over them to put the situation more to the favor of those with the money. So now we are left with a system of spreading wealth gap with no way to make those with the money pay their fair share of the infrastructure and systems they are making their money off from, and the assumption that it could all be paid for by our middle class is making them a gradually disappearing breed.

          • jburt56

            Try Chrome. You could also reset Internet Explorer–Start > Control Panel > Internet Options > Advanced > Reset.

          • Offgridman

            Chrome is the browser that I usually use and was tried first, and yes I am aware of clearing out cache, cookies, restarting and etc. Have been using, building, playing with computers for almost forty years and had an internet connection in various forms for over twenty.
            Your link leads to an advertisement to sign up for businessweek and when that is closed says page not available.
            If you would care to give me the title of the article other than it just being comments by Andy Grove and a date will be more than willing to find it on my own.
            However my beliefs still hold, solar is still just a small part of our total economy and even with half of the installs in 2013 in the US being of Chinese panels (more like 2/3 when talking about the rooftop market) the only ones these tariffs will hurt are the end consumers by encouraging higher installation prices. With half of the top ten panels by quality worldwide coming from China last year they will have no problem finding customers for their products in South America, Africa, India and other parts of Asia, or even England which is supposed to have a boom in installations this year. . It is really silly that this tariff rule went through against the advice of the WTO on what started out as a suit started by a company that produces in Germany, with none of the top three producers in the US being in support of it.
            The only ones hurt by these tariffs directly will be the American consumers that will have to continue to pay higher prices for our installations than the rest of the world. And of course of the whole world in that it will take that much longer for the US to get switched to alternative energy.

          • A Real Libertarian

            If you would care to give me the title of the article other than it just being comments by Andy Grove and a date will be more than willing to find it on my own.

            Andy Grove: How America Can Create Jobs

            July 01, 2010

          • jburt56

            ‘Andy Grove: How America Can Create Jobs’ Businessweek July 1, 2010.

        • phoenix

          Does it? Why? Would you also oppose a magical factory that you could feed with some bundles of green printed paper in one end and get containers filled with solar cells out the other end?

  • Kevin McKinney

    The last thing we need!

    • GCO

      I disagree.

      The last thing we need would be for yet one more industry, the associated jobs and domestic know-how, to vanish.

      I am not in a position to judge whether Chinese manufacturers are exporting their products below cost, but if competition is distorted and measures such as tariffs are required to restore it, then I support those, regardless of the modest and temporary effect this may have on prices.

      • Kevin McKinney

        Given that several US firms don’t even support the suit, do you really think that the industry is in danger of disappearing in the US? I really don’t, at least not at this point.

  • johnBas5

    Could have something to do with:
    Making solar power more expensive and harder to exploit.
    Then the need for more fossil fuels will be an ideal excuse against the native americans.

  • JamesWimberley

    Bad news, but the stage is now set for bilateral negotiations (as with the EU anti-dumping case a few years ago) which will limit the damage. Let’s hope the issue stays out of the November Congressional elections, giving Kerry and Obama room to manoeuvre.

    Neither Sunpower nor First Solar, the leading US manufacturers, seem to have joined SolarWorld. As successful companies, they risk losing exports in a trade war. It would have paid the bigger companies to have jointly bought out this small troublemaker a few years back, paying blackmail to kill a complaint that puts the whole industry at risk.

    • Yeah, but First Solar actually benefits from rising crystalline PV prices. And SunPower is fairly insulated since it deals in high-efficiency solar anyway.

      But, yeah, the fact that the two largest US solar PV manufacturers aren’t pushing for the tariffs makes the story that much more ridiculous.

  • Jan Veselý

    Just one sentence: Uncompetitive corporate socialists rules.

    • johnBas5

      Jan this has nothing to do with socialism, please stay on topic.
      This has everything to do with incumbent industries making things harder for their competition.

      • Jan Veselý

        I call them corporate socialists because I want to insult them, because it fits well and because I like the connection.

        And you are right. These corporations (and their top staff) have mouths full of free enterprise, free markets, etc. when it suits them, when they are dominant at the market, when they are collecting high profit margins. But once the odds start to turn against them, they turn to be pure “socialists” with governmental support, import tariffs, bailouts, …
        You are absolutely right, it has nothing to do with socialism, it is all about “bad behaviour”.

        • Gary Doan

          Companies in the USA are forced to play by the government’s socialist rules, that drive their cost up and the socialist government comes to the aid of the companies with tariffs. Its an ugly circle, with the consumers paying the bill. Free trade can not exist with government control of commerce.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s terrible, isn’t it Gary.

            A guy like you. Someone more in love with the free market rather than your fellow man should simply go Galt and leave the rest to wallow in our misery.
            Here’s an idea. Why don’t you sell it all and strike out for Somalia where there’s no government to get in the way of the free market?

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