12:54pm

Fri October 12, 2012
Solar

PV trade war between China and US to continue after DOC tariff decision

After a year-long case, the U.S. Department of Commerce has decided to impose anti-dumping duties on Chinese-manufactured crystalline silicon photovolatic (PV) cells and components after it concluded that China was providing unfair subsidies to its own manufacturers of those products.

The decision was made following investigations by the International Trade Commission (ITC) into whether dumping of the Chinese PV cells was harming local manufacturers. However the tariff decision by the DOC anticipates the final findings of the ITC which are not expected until the end of November.

The announcement looks set to exacerbate an ongoing trade dispute between China and the USA over the importation of PV cells and components.

Scientific American's Melissa C. Lott has more background here, and links the latest action by the DOC to the fallout surrounding the failure of the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. California-based Solyndra failed despite almost half a billion dollars of Department of Energy loan guarantees. The Solyndra case has been a frequent visitor to the presidential political debates where the GOP deploys it as an example of the failure of the $90 billion "green energy initiative".

The DOC tariffs vary from company to company and the reaction from Chinese manufacturers affected is as one would expect. A statement by the company JinkoSolar (JA Solar) which has to absorb an anti-dumping duty of 25.96% and an additional countervailing duty of 15.24% was released in Shanghai today. Here is an extract.

The ruling to impose stiff duties on JinkoSolar products does not reflect the reality of the highly competitive global solar industry and will only hinder the development of the entire PV industry. It will ultimately end up hurting US consumers, slow down the roll-out of green energy and limit job creation. Ill-conceived unilateral trade barriers such as these will reduce solar's competitiveness against other forms of electricity generally.

Local reaction varied. Suntech Power Holdings, which has operations in  China, Switzerland and the USA said in a statement that the tariff would impact on its global supply chain.

As a multinational company with global supply chains and manufacturing facilities in three countries, including Goodyear, Arizona, we will continue to provide our customers in the U.S. with hundreds of megawatts of high-quality and affordable solar products that will not be subject to tariffs.

In May, when the DOC signaled its intention to impose the tariffs, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) had concerns about the impact of the ongoing dispute.

If the U.S.-China solar trade disputes continue to escalate, it will jeopardize these U.S. investments. Given these broader implications, it is imperative that the U.S., China, and other players in the dynamic global marketplace work constructively to avert or resolve trade disputes that will ultimately hurt consumers and businesses throughout the solar value chain.