Mon, Jan 27, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Stop solar power probe, China asks

Reuters and Bloomberg, BEIJING

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce called on the US yesterday to stop anti-dumping investigations into imports of solar power products from China, expressing “serious concern” and vowing to defend its producers.

US trade officials on Thursday opened investigations into imports of certain solar power products from China and Taiwan, a move that could have a major impact on the nation’s fast-growing solar market.

The US Department of Commerce said it initiated antidumping duty and countervailing duty investigations, which will assess whether the products are being sold in the US below their fair value, or if their manufacturers receive inappropriate levels of foreign-government subsidies.

“The Chinese side expresses serious concern,” the Commerce Ministry said in a statement on its Web site. “China urges the United States again to carefully handle the current ... investigations, be prudent in taking measures and terminate the investigation proceedings.”

The investigations were sparked by a complaint at the end of last year by the US unit of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG. The company at the time said it was seeking to close a loophole in a prior trade case that enabled Chinese solar panel producers to evade duties by using cells manufactured in other countries, mainly Taiwan.

The Commerce Department investigation and a parallel inquiry by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) could open the door to expanding duties on some imported solar panels.

In October 2012, the US set steep duties on billions of dollars of solar products from China, but turned down pleas to expand the scope of its order to include Chinese panels made with non-Chinese solar cells. In response, many Chinese module producers simply began sourcing cells from Taiwan.

Separately, the pace of consolidation in the solar manufacturing industry will accelerate in the next three years as the cost of the technology declines and installations surge, the founder of the fourth-biggest solar-panel maker said.

China-based Trina Solar Ltd (天合光能) chairman Gao Jifan (高紀凡) said he expects three to five “leading” solar companies to remain in China by 2017, with 80 percent of the country’s market share. Currently, there are about a dozen companies with capacity to produce more than 1 gigawatt of solar cells a year.

“Consolidation will continue,” Gao said on Saturday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We’ve only seen the first stage. That will be a good situation. This will be achieved by mergers and acquisitions.”

Trina posted a profit for the first time in more than two years in the third quarter. Gao said he expects earnings to increase as sales climb and cost-controls hold. The company’s shares have more than tripled since November last year.

The shakeout of the past three years forced Q-Cells SE of Germany to sell itself and US Treasury-backed Solyndra LLC went into liquidation. Chinese manufacturers survived because they cut costs more quickly, according to Gao.

“It’s not about government subsidy,” he said. “We don’t get as much subsidy as for example German companies.”

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