The US Department of Commerce proposed expanded penalties on some Chinese solar-energy imports in a victory for the US arm of German owned SolarWorld AG, which had accused China of shifting production to Taiwan after it lost an earlier case.
The department issued a preliminary finding on Friday that said overseas producers, including China’s Trina Solar Ltd (天合光能) and Taiwan’s Gintech Energy Corp (昱晶), sold the goods in the US at unfairly low prices, a practice known as dumping. It called for duties as high as 165 percent to be imposed on imports from some Chinese manufacturers and a 44 percent tariff for those from Taiwan, according to a fact sheet released by the department.
“We should not have to compete with dumped imports or the Chinese government,” the president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc Mukesh Dulani said on Friday in an e-mail. The US Department of Commerce’s actions “should help the US solar manufacturing industry to expand and innovate.”
The SolarWorld case has split the US solar-energy industry, with manufacturers seeking protection against being undercut by cheap imports and installers pressing for low-cost equipment, regardless of origin. It is also the latest spat between the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, which are vying to become the global hub of clean-energy manufacturing.
“We strongly urge the US and Chinese governments to ‘freeze the playing field’ and focus all efforts on finding a negotiated solution,” Solar Energy Industries Association president Rhone Resch said in a statement. “This continued, unnecessary litigation has already done serious damage, with even more likely to result as the investigations proceed.”
A final decision by the US Commerce Department is set to be made mid-December. The US International Trade Commission is to determine by the end of January whether US makers of solar-powered goods were harmed by the imports. If so, the duties are to be permanent.
US imports from China and Taiwan of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, panels and modules used to make electricity from sunlight were valued at US$2.2 billion last year, the US Department of Commerce said.
Officials from China’s US embassy did not respond to requests for comment. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US did not have a comment because the investigation involved Taiwanese companies, not its government, director of the press division for the office Frank Wang (王億) said in an e-mail.
Importers of Trina Solar’s goods would have to pay US customs agents a deposit of 11 percent on the goods, according to the US Commerce Department. Those for Wuxi Suntech Power Co (無錫尚德) would be subject to a duty of 14 percent. The agency’s fact sheet included a list of more than 40 Chinese companies that would be subject to the penalty tariffs. The department said a “China-wide entity” is subject to a 165 percent rate.
In the Taiwan investigation, the US set penalties of 28 percent on Gintech’s goods and 44 percent on Motech Industries Inc (茂迪). All other Taiwanese producers are subject to a 36 percent rate.
SolarWorld won a similar US case against Chinese producers including Trina Solar Ltd and Suntech Power Holdings Co in 2012. SolarWorld officials said that since the decision, Chinese manufacturers have exploited a loophole by assembling part of the product in Taiwan to avoid penalty tariffs.