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U.S. solar firms file petitions against Chinese solar imports

On October 19, the newly-formed Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) filed antidumping and countervailing duty petitions with the U.S. government against Chinese solar imports.

CASM is led by SolarWorld, a German solar panel manufacturer with multiple facilities in the U.S. Six other U.S. crystalline silicon solar panel firms have joined the coalition, but the other firms have not been disclosed.

The group’s stated objective is “to hold China accountable to U.S. and international trade law by filing antidumping and countervailing duty trade remedy petitions.”

The Coalition claims it has found illegal subsidies from the Chinese government to solar cell and panel manufacturers in the form of cash grants, discounted raw materials, land, power and water.

The group also cites tax credits and export grants as additional factors that allow Chinese firms to sell PV products significant below cost, and demands countervailing duties of over 100 percent be applied to Chinese PV imports.

Credit: NY Times

“We have joined together as an industry because the level of illegal subsidies and dumping that the Chinese government has mounted is simply intolerable,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc. “American solar manufacturers can compete with any Chinese manufacturers, but not with the entire government of China.”

According to Brinser, “Chinese producers have used – and continue to use – continuous increases in production capacity and output, fueled by unprecedented levels of subsidization, to push enormous quantities of dumped and illegally subsidized PV cells and panels into the U.S. market at artificially low prices.”

“This drive is undercutting fair market value and threatening to decimate U.S. solar manufacturing employers,” he continued.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), was announced at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

One of the speakers was Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), whose office recently released a report titled “China’s Grab for Green Jobs.” He was joined by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The coalition believes that China’s low costs are “impossible” without the alleged illegal government support.

CASM also credits Chinese policies with pushing down prices in the U.S. despite a growing PV market, having “a devastating impact on the U.S. solar cell and panel industry, resulting in shutdowns, layoffs, and bankruptcies throughout the country.”

“Over the past 18 months, seven solar plants have shut down or downsized, eliminating thousands of U.S. solar manufacturing jobs in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania,” the group wrote in a statement.

Next Steps

The success of this petition rides on whether the Department of Commerce finds CASM’s claims to be true. Then the ITC must decide that these imports materially injure or threaten material injury to the U.S. PV industry.

This process could be completed within a year, and if successful, the Department of Commerce will collect duties equal to the determined antidumping and countervailing duty margins.

Meanwhile, the action has drawn criticism from some players in the solar industry. Though Chinese subsidies have been criticized for years, both in the U.S. and in Europe, many firms have recognized that punishing China will have ripple effects for solar firms around the world.

According to Greentech Media, the CCO of Suntech Power Andrew Beebe said “American companies are not driving this effort because American companies know that these types of complaints are job killers in the U.S.”

Learn more about the CASM’s petitions.


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