U.S. sets new import duties on Chinese solar products

Wed Jun 4, 2014 1:58am EDT
 
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States slapped new import duties on solar panels and other related products from China on Tuesday after the Commerce department ruled they were produced using Chinese government subsidies, potentially inflaming trade tensions between the two countries.

The U.S. arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG filed a petition complaining that Chinese manufacturers are sidestepping duties imposed in 2012 by shifting production of the cells used to make their panels to Taiwan and continuing to flood the U.S. market with cheap products.

The new complaint seeks to close that loophole by extending import duties to also cover panels made with parts from Taiwan. In a preliminary determination, the Commerce department imposed duties of 35.21 percent on imports of panels and other products made by Wuxi Suntech Power and five other affiliated companies, 18.56 percent on imports of Trina Solar and 26.89 percent on imports from other Chinese producers.

A preliminary decision on the anti-dumping section of the complaint is due by July 25. That section covers panels assembled in China from Taiwanese inputs or third-country cells made from Chinese inputs.

The anti-subsidy duties will hurt the Chinese solar industry, although the overall impact should be limited given the U.S. accounted for just about 10 percent of Chinese solar shipments last year, industry officials and analysts say.

"The import duties, which are in line with our expectations, will wipe out the price competitiveness of Chinese products in the U.S. market," said Zhou Ziguang, analyst at Chinese investment bank Ping An Securities in Beijing.

The Chinese government, which has been scrambling to boost domestic demand to offset declines in orders from Europe - previously the dominant buyer of Chinese solar products - on Wednesday expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with the U.S. decision.

In a notice posted on its website, China's Ministry of Commerce said the United States had "ignored the facts" and abused trade rules in order to protect its own industry, adding that the use of trade measures "would not solve the development problems of the U.S. solar industry."

China retaliated against the original U.S. duties by introducing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of U.S. polysilicon, the key raw material in solar cells, and has accused the United States of trying to curb Chinese imports.   Continued...

 
A worker examines the solar panels on the roof of a residential building in Yichang, Hubei province September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer