DOC imposes additional tariffs on solar panels from China, Taiwan

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The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has announced it will impose tariffs on solar photovoltaic (PV) modules imported from China and Taiwan.

SolarWorld, the largest U.S. solar manufacturer, applauded the DOC’s decision to issue final duties on a “comprehensive scope of solar imports”, saying the decision addressed “unfair trade practices in China and Taiwan” and “paved the way for expansion of solar manufacturing in the strong and growing U.S. market”.

The DOC announced anti-dumping duty rates of 52.13 percent, and anti-subsidy rates of 38.72 percent on most solar panels imported from China. It also announced anti-dumping rates of 19.50 percent on most solar cells imported from Taiwan. In separate SolarWorld cases concluded in 2012, the DOC imposed duties averaging about 31 percent on solar cells imported from China, regardless of where those panels were assembled. Until recently, China had circumvented these duties by using solar cells manufactured in Taiwan.

SolarWorld said it was optimistic that the new duties will curb or offset the Chinese solar industry’s past evasion of duties, and address improper trade practices in the company’s previous cases.

“These remedies come just in time to enable the domestic industry to return to conditions of fair trade,” said Mukesh Dulani, U.S. president of SolarWorld.  “The tariffs and scope set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories on U.S. soil.”

If the U.S. International Trade Commission confirms that Chinese and Taiwanese trade practices negatively impacted domestic manufacturers, the duties will go into effect around Feb. 1.

Dissenting Views

Not everyone in the U.S. solar industry is happy about the ruling. Some fear the DOC’s decision will further divide an already shaken industry.

In an interview with RenewableEnergyWorld.com, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said the ruling is “ill-advised” and will harm many while benefitting few. “We remain steadfast in our opposition [to the ruling] because of the adverse impact punitive tariffs will have on the future progress of America’s solar energy industry. It’s time to end this costly dispute, and we’ll continue to do our part to help find a win-win solution,” he said. SEIA is holding a webinar for its members to discuss the ruling on December 18 at noon EST.

For its part, the SEIA has also drawn criticism, raising eyebrows in the industry because of its non-neutral position on the issue.

PetersenDean, a privately-held roofing and solar company, called for Resch’s resignation, as well as for that of SEIA board members, because of the organization’s position in the case. As reported by RenewableEnergyWorld.com, Erin Clark, president of PetersenDean Roofing & Solar, asserts that the trade association’s support for China and Taiwan in these matters is a clear conflict with its own stated purpose to keep America competitive.

“SEIA has become nothing more than a tool used by Chinese companies to try and bankrupt and destroy American solar manufacturing. Thanks to some of these actions, thousands of American workers have lost their jobs in the past three years due to the closure of solar manufacturing plants in America. All of this at a time when our domestic economy and employment are struggling to recover from the devastating recession,” said Clark.

Also entering the fray, The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) believes the DOC decision will raise prices and kill jobs, and that the ruling is in direct opposition to pledges recently made by the U.S. and China to work together to curb global warming. “Hundreds of megawatts of solar projects remain unrealized due to deleterious solar trade barriers in the U.S., China, Europe, and globally. Eliminating taxes in cleantech trade represents the lowest-hanging fruit in the global fight against climate change,” said Jigar Shah, president of CASE.

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