March 21, 2012
In a preliminary decision, the department found China is unfairly subsidizing certain solar panels. As a result, the department ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to impose tariffs of 2.90 to 4.73 percent in the form of cash deposits or bonds on Chinese solar panels imported into the United States.
The finding is a major victory for a group of U.S. solar panel manufacturers that alleges China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels and subsidizing its solar industry in a way that violates World Trade Organization rules.
“Today’s announcement affirms what U.S. manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and WTO-illegal subsidies,” said Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Helios Solar Works in Milwaukee, Wis., in a statement. Ostrenga is a member of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, which supports imposing tariffs on Chinese solar imports.
“We appreciate the Commerce Department’s hard work in bringing these subsidies to light, and we look forward to addressing all of China’s unfair trade practices in the solar industry,” he said.
The trade case has caused a rift in the solar industry, with power generators and others who have benefited from low-price panels raising concerns that the petition will drive up costs.
But Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar industry trade group, said in a statement that the tariffs will likely not have a “material impact on the U.S. market.”
SEIA, pointing to the decision, called on companies to launch “global and regional dialogues on trade and competitiveness and the role of government in encouraging development of the global solar energy industry.”
The Commerce Department said Tuesday it will make a final decision on the tariffs in June. The International Trade Commission will then need to finalize its finding that Chinese solar imports harm the U.S. solar industry before a final order can be issued. An ITC decision is expected in July.
The Commerce Department is separately weighing whether China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels. The department will make its preliminary determination on May 17.