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Coalition alleges Chinese firms flooding U.S. market, seeks retroactive tariffs

On January 25, a group of U.S. solar manufacturers accused Chinese solar firms of flooding the U.S. market with imports ahead of potential duties on Chinese imports.

Drawing upon U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) claims that Chinese firms have increased imports of crystalline solar cells and modules by 110 percent since July 2011.

The group says this increase warrants application of retroactive duties to Chinese solar imports.

“This significant increase in imports demonstrates that the Chinese know they have violated U.S. and international trade rules and are trying to evade the consequences,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., the firm leading the coalition.

“This most recent surge of Chinese solar imports gives the U.S. Department of Commerce the evidence it needs not only to make a preliminary determination in our favor, but also to apply a critical-circumstances finding to address this last-minute import surge,” he continued.

A worker at a Trina Solar manufacturing plant. Photo Credit: Trina Solar

The coalition offered two specific firms’ import data as evidence: Suntech, whose exports to the U.S. jumped 76 percent from October to November, and Trina Solar, whose exports rose 209 percent in the first half of December, compared with the first half of November 2011.

Suntech claims this rise was due to internal U.S. market conditions. “Strong U.S. market demand in the fourth quarter was driven largely by the anticipated expiry of the cash grant program,” a Suntech spokesman told Reuters, referring to the expiration of the Treasury 1603 Program.

Retroactive Duties

Whatever the reason behind such a spike in Chinese exports to the U.S., CASM certainly wants this data to influence the Department of Commerce ruling on the anti-dumping case, due March 2.

“The bottom line is there has been a huge surge at the end of the year, way out of proportion to demand, in an effort to beat the imposition of duties,” Tim Brightbill, an attorney with Wiley Rein LLP, the law firm filing the petition for CASM, told Bloomberg.

“That’s why we’re urging Commerce to make what’s called a critical-circumstances finding and to impose the duties 90 days retroactively.”

Last month, the International Trade Commission agreed to continue the investigation. Now the Department of Commerce must announce a preliminary decision on duties this coming March.

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