The US hit Chinese solar companies with punitive import tariffs of 30 percent or more on Thursday, ruling they had dumped cut-price solar panels on the US market.
In the latest in a series of trade disputes between Beijing and Washington, the US Department of Commerce said it had sided with US-based solar companies that had complained a wave of Chinese imports had undercut their pricing and forced several renewable players out of business.
The size of the tariffs is larger than Chinese companies had expected and some analysts said it might prompt them to manufacture elsewhere or look for alternative markets.
Yesterday, China denounced the US move as unfair and damaging to both producers and consumers, saying that Washington’s decision sent a “negative signal” about trade protectionism.
“The US decision lacks fairness and China expresses its strong displeasure,” Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang (沈丹陽) said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site.
Washington on Thursday set tariffs on shipments from most of the top Chinese exporters, including Suntech Power Holdings Co (尚德電力) and Trina Solar Ltd (天合光能), at about 31 percent.
Several Chinese firms and a solar trade group opposed to the tariffs said it would push up costs of clean energy.
The ruling stems from a complaint filed in October last year by the US subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld AG and six other US companies that alleged unfair competition and had sought duties well above 100 percent.
China’s solar companies hold more than 60 percent of the global market. Their heavy reliance on subsidized US and European markets has prompted criticism that loans from Chinese state-run banks and low prices give the companies an unfair advantage.
Under the decision, 59 Chinese solar companies that petitioned Washington in the case will also face an import duty of about 31 percent, including Yingli Green Energy Holding Co (英利綠色能源), LDK Solar Co Ltd (江西賽維), Canadian Solar Inc (加拿大太陽能), Hanwha SolarOne Co (韓華新能源), JA Solar Holding Co (晶澳太陽能) and Jinko Solar Co (晶科能源).
The decision also lifted Taiwanese solar stocks on hopes that solar cell and wafer suppliers would fill the gap left by Chinese firms discouraged by the trade barriers, analysts said.
There was speculation that Chinese companies could circumvent the restrictions by buying Taiwanese cells and wafers for panels and assembling them outside of China.
“This is positive for Taiwanese players, which can come in and supply solar cells to US panel makers that won’t be buying from the Chinese,” CIMB Research analyst Keith Li said.
Shares of Gintech Energy Corp (昱晶) rose nearly 6 percent, Neo Solar Power Corp (新日光) gained 3.5 percent and Motech Industries Inc (茂迪) climbed 3 percent.
However, Chinese solar stocks in Hong Kong slumped. Shares of wafer companies GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd (保利協鑫能源) fell 8.3 percent, Solargiga Energy Holdings Ltd (陽光能源) nearly 9 percent and Comtec Solar Systems Group (卡姆丹克太陽能系統集團) 3.3 percent.
Some Chinese companies have already started to look for markets beyond Europe and the US.