U.S. solar manufacturers file petition against "unfair" Chinese subsidies

U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers filed a complaint Oct. 19 alleging that Chinese solar panel makers and cell manufacturers are making it hard to compete in the U.S. market.

The two petitions, filed by SolarWorld and six other U.S. solar manufacturers, were filed jointly with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The companies claim Chinese panel makers and cell manufacturers are receiving unfair subsidies from the Chinese government and dropping their prices at artificially low levels.

SolarWorld employs more than 1,000 workers at its Oregon headquarters and manufacturing facility.

“Artificially low-priced solar products from China are crippling the domestic industry,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld. “Massive state subsidies and sponsorship have enabled Chinese manufacturers to illegally dump their products into a wide-open U.S. market.”

The other six companies involved in the petitions will remain anonymous, which is allowed by the Department of Commerce.

“In international trade, there is a concern that the company filing the petition could be unfairly retaliated against in the export trading,” said John Smirnow, vice president of trade and competitiveness for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), on the decision of the six companies to remain anonymous.

In filing the complaint, the group launched the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing. By filing the anti-dumping (AD) petition, the companies are saying that they are unable to compete in the American solar market because they are being undercut by Chinese panel makers and cell manufacturers that are dumping their product at artificially low prices. The countervailing duty (CVD) petition contends that panel makers and cell manufacturers are receiving unfair subsidies from the Chinese government.

“It’s important that competition takes place within the rules. While it’s good that prices are falling, it wouldn’t be good if they were falling as a result of unfair trade practices,” Smirnow said.

Trina Solar, one of the Chinese companies named in the complaint, said in an Oct. 24 statement that the allegations made by U.S. petitioners will be shown to be unfounded and that the company follows U.S. industry norms.

"The company has, and will continue to, adhere to prudent and recognized United States practices and standards," the statement said. "Trina Solar is confident that these facts will be affirmed within the proceedings."

A finding on behalf of the American companies would lead to tariffs being imposed on solar panels imported from China, possibly as soon as spring 2012.

The ITC has 45 days to issue its preliminary determination. If the ITC determines that the petition is justifiable, it will be passed on to the Department of Commerce. If the ITC turns down the petition, it will end at that level.

If the petition is passed at the ITC level, the Department of Commerce will have 180 days from Oct. 19, the date the petition was filed, to make its determination. During that six month period, panels can be sold to the U.S. However, any indication that products were being pushed through to avoid pending tariffs would reportedly make some of the transactions subject to penalty.

The ITC must make its preliminary determination based on three measures of injury:

  • Whether the volume of imports is significant
  • Whether the prices of those imports represents underselling, depresses prices or prevents price increases
  • Whether the imports have a negative impact on domestic producers and production

Chinese panel makers and/or cell manufacturers could file for an appeal through the World Trade Organization, which could work to find a resolution.

A full version of the public document can be found at USITC.gov.


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