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Final ITC decision handed down on solar tariffs

By Bridget McCrea

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) determined this week that a U.S. industry has been “materially injured” by reason of imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules from China that the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has determined are subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value.

The commission, which was a six-member independent agency that administers trade laws, unanimously supported a group of American manufacturers headed up by the U.S. unit of Bonn-based SolarWorld AG. As a result of these affirmative determinations, the DOC is expected to issue antidumping and countervailing duty orders on imports of these products from China.

The issue dates back to 2011, when Chinese solar panel makers began unceremoniously dumping – or, selling their products for lower than fair market value – their products into the U.S. market. In May, the Obama administration ordered tariffs of 31% and higher on those solar panels imported from China. More than 60 Chinese firms, including the world’s largest solar panel maker, Suntech Power Holdings Co., face the 31% duty on their exports to the U.S., retroactive to shipments made in February. According to the DOC, all other Chinese exporters of solar cells will pay a tariff of 250%.

Gordon Brinser, president of Oregon-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc., and the leader of the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), said the unanimous vote confirms what has been apparent in the marketplace for the past two years – that Chinese manufacturers, with the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government, have attempted to game the international trading system in order to gain a virtual monopoly on solar cells and modules sales in the U.S. market.

“We have seen the results of this campaign in the marketplace,” said Brinser in a press release, “with more than a dozen companies either shutting down manufacturing facilities or significantly cutting back production and employment in the United States and a Chinese industry, led by LDK Solar and Suntech, having to increasingly turn to its national and provincial governments for help to survive.”

“With this relief, combined with an aggressive domestic enforcement regime, there is hope that the United States can maintain a viable solar manufacturing base, conduct ongoing research and development and continue to make solar an increasingly viable part of the American renewable energy portfolio,” Brinser added.

The commission’s public report Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cells and Modules from China (Investigation Nos. 701-TA-481 and 731-TA-1190 (Final), USITC Publication 4360, November 2012) will contain the views of the commissioners and information developed during the investigations. Copies may be obtained after December 14, 2012, by emailing pubrequest@usitc.gov.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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