China launches investigation of U.S. renewable industries

China’s ministry of commerce announced on Nov. 25 that it had opened an investigation into whether American subsidies and other policies in the solar, wind and hydroelectric sectors had unfairly damaged the industrial development of China’s renewable energy industries.

The investigation was launched in response to a complaint against Chinese solar manufacturers filed in October by SolarWorld and other U.S. solar manufacturers.

The Chinese ministry said in a statement on its web site that its investigation would end by May 25. That could allow the ministry to retaliate if the Commerce Department imposed punitive tariffs on shipments as part of either its antidumping investigation. The Commerce Department’s anti-dumping decision is due by mid-March, while the anti-subsidy investigation decision is due by mid-May.

The China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance had requested the Chinese government to launch an investigation on Nov. 21, but the ministry of commerce chose to launch a more wide-scale investigation into nearly all aspects of U.S. renewable manufacturing.

According to GTM Research and the U.S. Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), the U.S. is a net exporter of solar products to China by more than $200 million and to the world by nearly $2 billion. Many U.S. companies are leaders in the production of polysilicon, a key material input for crystalline silicon solar cells, as well as manufacturing equipment. In 2010, American companies exported $873 million of polysilicon and nearly $1 billion of manufacturing equipment to China.

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