U.S. slaps hefty duties onto Chinese solar panels

The U.S. government is imposed hefty tariffs on Chinese solar panels in retaliation for China's dumping of goods into the U.S. market. Chinese firms have asked the U.S. to reconsider to avoid a potential trade war.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor
SolarWorld Industries led a coalition of U.S. solar manufacturers in trade complaints against China last year. (Image credit: SolarWorld)

The United States has slapped hefty tariffs onto Chinese solar panels after concluding that China has engaged in unfair trading practices to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers. Chinese companies have called for the U.S. to advert a "solar trade war."

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its preliminary decision on a minimum 31 percent, 90-day retroactive, tariff on Chinese made panels as a remedy for China's "dumping" goods into the U.S. market. Chinese PV maker Suntech Power Holdings issued a statement taking issue with the decision for not reflecting the "reality of a highly-competitive global solar industry" and vowed to convince the U.S. to back off.

"As a global company with global supply chains and manufacturing facilities in three countries, including the United States, we are providing our U.S. customers with hundreds of megawatts of quality solar products that are not subject to these tariffs," said Andrew Beebe, Suntech's chief commercial Officer.

"Despite these harmful trade barriers, we hope that the U.S., China and all countries will engage in constructive dialogue to avert a deepening solar trade war. Suntech opposes trade barriers at any point in the global solar supply chain. All leading companies in the global solar industry want to see a trade war averted. We need more competition and innovation, not litigation," Beebe continued.

The Department imposed a separate tariff of up to 4.73 percent on Chinese PVs to remedy Chinese government subsidies in March. In October, a coalition of U.S. PV panel makers raised trade complaints with government officials, sparking a row between East and West.

A month later, a Chinese solar manufacturing trade group asked China's Ministry of Commerce to investigate U.S. manufacturers for selling below cost and requested action against U.S. government subsidies. China cut its subsidies substantially earlier this month.

Thus far, only China has been found to be in violation of international trade rules. China's rationing of rare earth minerals used in the production of high tech and renewable energy products, such as PV panels, has run afoul of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Trade law expert UCLA law professor Richard Steinberg, stated that the behavior was, "It was Chinese mercantilism at its best: a straightforward, illegal, aggressive effort to manipulate the global market for raw materials, and they lost appropriately."

The European Union, Japan, and United States filed a separate trade dispute with the WTO over China's export restrictions on rare earths in March. The process could take years to yield any results.

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