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US will probe solar product anti-dumping for 'material injury'

By Amy He in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-02-17 10:59

The US International Trade Commission said it will proceed with its investigation of solar-energy products imported from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan because there is a "reasonable indication" that the imports are hurting the domestic solar industry.

If the commission, which announced its decision on Friday, determines that the imports "threaten material injury" to US producers, the Commerce Department will reveal its preliminary countervailing duty decision by late March, and its anti-dumping duty determination by June.

Anti-dumping investigations determine whether a foreign country sells a product in the US for less than in its country of origin. Countervailing duty investigations determine whether financial assistance or subsidies from foreign governments unfairly benefit the production of goods.

The US arm of German solar panel maker SolarWorld, based in Hillsboro, Oregon, filed a complaint with the Commerce Department in December. It accused the Chinese mainland of flooding the US with cheap products because the country shifted production of certain solar panel parts to Taiwan to avoid various trade duties.

SolarWorld's CEO Frank Asbeck wrote in a note at the beginning of the month that "China is improperly seizing control of an industry that the United States invented." Addressed to President Barack Obama - who spoke about the US solar industry in this year's State of the Union address - Asbeck said that China driving down its prices has "hurt and bankrupted dozens of well-run US solar manufacturers and cost the jobs of thousands of US employees".

It wasn't the first trade suit filed by SolarWorld's US unit. In May 2012 the Commerce Department imposed duties of as much as 250 percent on solar cells produced in China in response to a complaint it filed on behalf of US solar manufacturers.

Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solary Energy (CASE), said in a statement that imposing tariffs on imported solar products could "inflict harm" on an industry that creates jobs.

"By raising the cost of solar for American homeowners, SolarWorld is poised to inflict critical damage on an industry which last year added more than 20,000 solar installation, sales and distribution jobs to the US economy," he said. "These hard-working Americans now look to President Obama to broker a common sense solution which will avoid damage to the economy and allow deployment of clean renewable energy to continue into the 21st century."

Shah told China Daily that a better solution would be for the US and China to negotiate a settlement because a continuation of the investigation could potentially bring about a "trade war" between countries, which is in nobody's best interest, he said.

He added that the trade office just this week condemned India for protectionist solar policies and said that this investigation has further implications for countries outside of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan as well.

"CASE implores the US government to adopt the same perspective before a burgeoning US industry is harmed for the benefit of one Germany company," he said in the statement.

Imports of solar products from the Chinese mainland fell to just over 47 million units in 2012 from 93 million in 2011, while imports from Taiwan increased twofold to 41 million in 2012 from 22 million in 2011, according to the Commerce Department.

The value of solar imports from the Chinese mainland totaled $2 billion and those from Taiwan totaled $513 million in 2012, the figures showed.

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