Chinese polysilicon solar-cell manufacturers could be hit with duties under a ruling issued last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The determination marks the near end of a yearlong investigation.
The department found that 61 Chinese firms had sold solar cells and panels below cost, a practice known as dumping, and had obtained illegal subsidies from the Chinese government. The investigation did not include thin-film solar manufacturers.
For the two largest companies, Suntech Power and Trina Solar, the tariffs will be 35.97% and 23.75%, respectively, according to Commerce officials. These duties are intended to even the playing field between U.S. and Chinese companies, the officials stressed, and would be paid by U.S. importers. However, before the penalty can be finalized, the U.S. International Trade Commission must determine that the Chinese imports have materially harmed U.S. companies. That ruling is expected in late November.
The initial complaint was filed last year by a coalition of seven U.S. companies and led by SolarWorld, a German manufacturer with facilities in Oregon. The coalition welcomed parts of the determination but warned of a loophole that it says would allow Chinese companies to avoid duties by using cells made in other countries and assembled into panels in China (C&EN, June 4, page 26).
On the other hand, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, another U.S. solar trade association, warned of a global solar trade war that may stymie the expanding industry. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce also warned of a trade conflict and added that the decision “runs counter to global efforts to jointly combat the challenges of climate change and energy security.”
China is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar cells, exporting more than $3.1 billion in solar cells to the U.S. last year.