US Upholds Tariffs on Chinese Solar Cells, Rejects Request to Broaden Scope

by | Oct 12, 2012

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The US Commerce Department affirmed its earlier ruling that Chinese manufacturers, aided by unfair government subsidies, were dumping solar cells in the U.S. market at prices as much as 250 percent below fair value.

The DOC adjusted tariffs to reflect its final determination, which elicited an immediate and negative reaction from the Chinese government and solar manufacturers with Chinese operations, including Suntech, Canadian Solar and Trina Solar. China’s Ministry of Commerce demanded the US repeal the tariffs and warned the federal government’s decision would incite trade friction between the two countries.

Suntech, which has operations in China, Switzerland and the US, including a manufacturing facility in Arizona, called the tariffs “ill-conceived taxes” that will make solar less competitive against other forms of electricity generation. The DOC imposed an anti-dumping tariff of 21.19 percent and a 14.78 percent countervailing duty on Suntech’s crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells imported from China.

Under the decision, Trina Solar will have to pay an 18.32 percent anti-dumping tariff and countvailing duties of 15.97 percent, the DOC said. Fifty-nine other exporters qualified for a separate dumping rate of 25.96 percent. All remaining Chinese exporters received a final dumping rate of 249.96 percent.

Meanwhile, EU ProSun, a coalition of US and European solar manufacturers led by SolarWorld, hailed the decision and called for the European Commission to make the same determination.

The DOC rejected a request to expand the tariffs to solar panels, a decision cheered by the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, an organization of mostly U.S. solar project developers and installers, which have benefited from lower solar panel prices. Some manufacturers pushed the DOC to place tariffs on panels, arguing that Chinese companies can skirt current penalties by buying solar cells from other countries and making the panels in China intended for sale in the United States.

The solar trade dispute began last October after EU ProSun filed a complaint with the DOC and the US International Trade Commission calling for an investigation into China over what it described as unfair subsidies for its solar industry.

In May, the DOC imposed a minimum 31 percent, 90-day retroactive tariff on Chinese-made solar cells. In March, Commerce issued its preliminary decision on the countervailing duty petition, placing tariffs of between 2.9 percent and 4.7 percent on the imported photovoltaic cells after concluding the Chinese government provided unfair subsidies.

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