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China’s Ministry of Commerce to investigate U.S. polysilicon imports

On July 19, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced an investigation into solar products entering the country from South Korea and the United States.

According to Bloomberg, the Ministry is investigating whether U.S. and South Korean producers have been selling polysilicon below-cost and whether U.S. firms have been unfairly advantaged by government subsidies. This news comes a month after reports that Chinese firms had filed trade complaints with the Ministry of Commerce.

The investigation will consider South Korean and U.S. imports to China between July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012, and may go on for as long as 18 months.

This announcement is the latest round of the dispute over photovoltaics between the U.S. and China, which began when the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) filed anti-subsidy and anti-dumping complaints against Chinese PV imports to the U.S.

In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce set preliminary tariffs on Chinese solar cells of up to 250 percent, in addition to an earlier countervailing duty of between 2 and 5 percent. These rulings have yet to be finalised, though.

Solar cells on a production line at a Trina Solar factory. Photo Credit: Trina Solar

Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, the firm heading up CASM, called the Chinese move “yet another cynical attempt by the Chinese government to bully the U.S. government by injecting politics into a judicial investigation that is sanctioned under international trade rules.”

“Today’s announcement by the Chinese government proves once and for all that China is intent on unfairly and illegally allowing its manufacturers to dominate the global solar industry,” he said. “Fortunately, when the Chinese government has attempted such blatant retaliatory actions in the past, those actions have been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization.”

Others in the U.S. solar industry were pushing for collaboration rather than retaliatory investigations. Jigar Shah, President of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, called any tariffs on solar products “counterproductive.”

“We urge all countries to avoid unilateral actions that impede trade and resolve conflicts in a bilateral or multilateral context,” he said. “Specifically, we urge the U.S. and China to rise above SolarWorld’s selfish action and engage in productive dialogue to prevent this destructive trade war.”

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, called China’s move an escalation in the trade conflict and highlighted the negative consequences for all.

“Unfortunately, these investigations will have an immediate, adverse impact on U.S. polysilicon manufacturers, regardless of the investigations’ outcome,” said Resch. “The investigations also threaten the Chinese solar industry’s access to the world’s most efficient and innovative polysilicon products.”

“Some have argued that it’s too soon to either start a collaborative dialogue or consider negotiations. We disagree—it’s never too soon to begin work on solutions and forward-thinking action,” said Resch, before offering the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting as an appropriate forum for such negotiations.


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