China ratchets up solar trade war with USA

China imposes anti-dumping duties on solar products from the US and South Korea following eight month investigation

Chinese solar manufacturers last year lodged complaints against US and Korean companies with the Ministry of Commerce. (Source: Suntech)

By Nilima Choudhury

China has landed a blow in its ongoing solar trade war with the US by imposing import duties on one of the main components of solar cells.

Finlay Colville, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz, told RTCC that from 24 July, Chinese importers of solar-grade polysilicon from the US will be required to pay deposit rates with Chinese customs ranging from 53.3% to 57%, depending on the dumping margin for each company.

Importers from South Korea will be required to pay rates ranging from 2.4% to 48.7%. The move coincides with ongoing talks with the EU over the alleged dumping of solar panels in the EU.

“Theoretically, the levels would have been calculated through an economic analysis done by the Chinese government at the company level – not seen of course,” Colville told RTCC.

“So, very hard to know what their rationale is at the country or company level.”

China’s Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) said in a statement: “China’s polysilicon industry has been substantially damaged, [as a result of] dumping.”

Chinese companies submitted their complaints to Mofcom last year. The department has now opened the floor to US and Korean companies to submit their comments on this ruling over the next ten days.

US penalties

Last year, the US Department of Commerce levied much higher duties on Chinese producers and exporters selling solar cells to the US market at dumping margins ranging from 18.32% to 249.96%.

On the grounds of the extent of government support received by each company, the US imposed countervailable subsidies, of 14.78% to 15.97% which the US claimed gave Chinese manufacturers an advantage over domestic companies.

Wang Bohua, secretary general of China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance, said Mofcom’s decision reflected its different approaches in dealing with solar disputes with the United States and the European Union, according to Chinese publication Xinhua.

Towards the end of last year the EU launched its own investigation into Chinese solar products. The European Commission imposed an interim anti-dumping duty of 11.8% on all companies despite criticism from the majority of member states.

A report by Swiss company Prognos, produced at the behest of lobby group the Alliance for Affordable Solar, claimed EU duties of just 20% would cost the European economy up to 175,500 jobs.

If China and the EU fail to come to an agreement, the duty will be raised to an average of 47.6% next month until member states vote on these anti-dumping allegations in December.

China and the European Commission are now at the final stages of trying to reach a negotiated settlement on solar products.

Bohua said the ministry’s decision announced yesterday revealed its leniency towards EU imports.

The European Union has just started an initiative to work with China to promote green growth and tackle pollution.

John Smirnow, vice president of trade and competitiveness from the US Solar Energy Industries Association told RTCC: “The announcement of these preliminary duties again underscores the need for all parties in the global solar energy industry to continue striving for a mutually-satisfactory resolution to trade issues.”

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