The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted unanimously on Friday that there is a reasonable indication that SolarWorld and other U.S. solar manufacturers have been or could have been harmed by imports of Chinese solar cells and solar panels. The commission will follow with a full investigation on Chinese solar imports.
The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), which includes SolarWorld and six other U.S. solar manufacturers, filed a complaint with the ITC and the U.S. Department of Commerce on October 19, saying the Chinese government uses cash grants, raw-materials discounts, preferential loans, tax incentives and currency manipulation to boost exports of solar cells.
These manufacturers are asking import duties of more than $1 billion on Chinese imports. There will now be a full investigation on possible economic harm to American solar manufacturers by the ITC. The Department of Commerce will meanwhile determine the penalty for Chinese companies that illegally dump solar products in the U.S. market. This decision may be made as early as January 12, according to an article in Bloomberg.
The Chinese Department of Commerce, which has launched its own investigation, says that the ruling "was made without sufficient evidence showing U.S. solar panel industry has been harmed and ignored defenses from Chinese firms as well as opposition from the U.S. domestic industries and other stakeholders."
The ruling, says the Department, "smacks of trade protectionism," according to an article in Reuters India. The Department argues that the U.S. should instead be investigating why its own solar panel makers lack competitiveness, even with subsidies from both the U.S. and Europe. Chinese manufacturers say that they have not received special treatment, and that the Chinese government accords "fair and equal treatment" to both local and foreign companies, according to Trina Solar Ltd. Chief Executive Gao Jifan. They argue that added tariffs on Chinese imports would increase the cost of solar panels, which would then be passed down to the consumers, hurting the American solar industry. Manufacturers are considering moving to different countries in order to avoid tariffs.
On the other hand, First Solar and SunPower Corp, both American manufacturers not involved in the case, may benefit from higher sales prices in order to stay competitive in the U.S. These companies were facing difficulties because of the rapidly dropping price of solar panels. With the tariffs on Chinese solar cells, panels made by First Solar and SunPower could once again compete with imported solar cells.