The puny countervailing duties that the U.S. Commerce Department ordered on Chinese solar imports apparently will be a little less puny.

Commerce Department is jacking up the duties, to 3.44 percent on Wuxi Suntech and 5.81 percent on Trina Solar, according to a public International Trade Administration memorandum [PDF] provided Monday by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, the group representing the companies that brought the trade complaint last October.

u.s. china solar trade dispute
image via Shutterstock

According to CASM, the rate for all other Chinese solar companies would also increase, since the “all-others” rate is a weighted average of the Trina and Suntech rates.

The original determination by the Commerce Department in the trade dispute over crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules from China set a preliminary countervailing duty of 2.90 percent for Suntech, with Trina Solar at 4.73 percent and all others at 3.61 percent.

The countervailing duty, while inching up slightly – and CASM said the could go higher as the Commerce Department continues probing the Chinese companies on the ground this week – pales compared to the anti-dumping duties of around 31 percent announced against Trina and Suntech last month, and up to nearly 250 percent on other manufacturers.

CASM suggested there’s more alleged funny business to be found.

“Import duties imposed under U.S. and world trade laws are not calculated to punish importers for illegal trade practices,” Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America and the leader of CASM, said in a statement Monday.

“Instead, they are meant as a remedy to offset the unfair advantage that those illegal practices provide. Commerce’s preliminary determinations of import duty margins are steps in the right direction, but they do not yet reflect all of China’s improper and unfair practices. In that light, we appreciate and applaud both today’s announcement and the unrelenting work that investigators have yet to do.”

The ITA document lists several counts where the Chinese companies benefited from subsidies. For instance, it cites discounted electricity rates, and because of that added 0.44 percent to the Suntech subsidy rate and 0.47 percent to Trina’s. Illegal grant programs also added 0.59 percent to the Trina subsidy.

Under the Commerce Departments preliminary rulings, Chinese companies have been posting bonds or cash deposits on their U.S.-bound solar cells and modules, and will have to do so until the department reaches a final determination in the case in October.

The allegations by the U.S. manufacturers inflamed the Chinese and prompted a bitter internal fight in the U.S. solar industry. SolarWorld and its Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing cohorts say that without protective duties, U.S. solar PV manufacturing jobs will be lost to China; installers and others in the solar supply chain—many of them gathered under the banner of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE)—say that duties could spell the end of the PV boom that has created tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.

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