Commerce Dept. imposes preliminary tariffs on Chinese PV manufacturers

In the trade complaint against Chinese silicon photovoltaic manufacturers the other shoe dropped today and it was louder than the soft thud of the first shoe. The U.S. Commerce Department preliminarily found that Chinese solar PV manufacturers were guilty of dumping PV cells and modules in the U.S. and impose preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese-based PV manufacturers.

Under the ruling certain Chinese manufacturers of PV cells would be impacted, even if they assembled them into modules in the U.S., according to SolarWorld spokesperson Ben Santariss. “If the cells are made outside China, they would not be subject to the tariffs under Commerce’s preliminary determination on the issue of product scope. But this point is still a matter of argumentation,” he said.

The decision is a victory for the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) and SolarWorld Industries America, which led the 210-member coalition. And it follows a preliminary countervailing duties finding in late March by the Commerce Department, which determined that Chinese PV manufacturers were benefitting from Chinese subsidies in violation of World Trade Organization rules. The countervailing duties are in addition to the tariffs announced today. CASM called the decision a positive step.

Under the ruling, the department instituted a preliminary tariff margin of 31.14 percent for Trina, 31.22 percent for Suntech, 31.18 percent for others and a much, higher 249.96 percent for Chinese PV manufacturers that did not participate in the case. “Commerce says 30 companies fall into this category,” said Santarris. The department also instituted the tariffs retroactive 90 days from when the decision is published in the Federal Register. The fines previously announced were for much lower levels. The countervailing duties were 2.9 percent on Suntech, 4.73 percent on Trina Solar and 3.59 percent on all other Chinese PV manufacturers.

SolarWorld is a U.S.-based manufacturer with a parent company, SolarWorld AG, in Germany, which also has been impacted by inexpensive Chinese imports. The company may take action there, too. “We have gone on record saying something needs to be done in Europe about China’s anticompetitive trade practices and we will be part of any action that emerges. We have not been more specific,” Santariss said.

Today’s ruling brings both investigations together and is a precursor to a final decision, which could happen as soon as late July. But such a decision may be delayed until late September when the department has had more time to investigate the cases.