The US government has officially opened an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese solar products imported into the US.

The latest complaint has been called “not clever” by China’s official industry body and has also met resistance closer to home.

The decision by the US International Trade Commission (USITC) follows a petition by SolarWorld at the end of 2013 in which it claimed that existing anti-dumping levies, averaging 31%, were being circumvented. SolarWorld claims some of China’s manufacturers are exploiting a loophole by using cells from Taiwan and elsewhere for their modules.

SolarWorld also instigated the long-running trade dispute between European and Chinese manufacturers that ended with the application of a minimum price floor for solar products entering the EU.

“China obviously recognises the key importance of solar-technology manufacturing to future economic competitiveness. But we do, too,” said Mukesh Dulani, president of SolarWorld Industries America, based in Oregon. “Therefore, we are once again simply asking our trade regulators to investigate the facts and apply the well-established laws that enable free trade, robust competition and lower long-term pricing. If fair competition can be restored, the US industry will return to growth.”

The China Chamber of Commerce of Machinery and Electronics (CCME), which negotiated the EU deal on behalf of the country’s manufacturers, has condemned the tactics taken in the US.

"It will keep all the Chinese companies out of the US market if new duties are imposed, in addition to the already unfair trade environment," said Sun Guangbin, secretary-general for solar energy and photovoltaic products at the CCCME prior to the Washington’s confirmation that it would pursue the investigation.

“The previous ruling was not based on the facts but on the US demand to protect local companies. I do not think it clever to continue the mistake by keeping blocking competition from China with even harsher charges,” Sun told China Daily newspaper.

“US companies have problems with cost control and financial management, and they have to sort that out,” he said.

The US solar sector far from universally supports SolarWorld’s petition with the country’s Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) branding the latest legal move “the wrong approach”.

Tweeting on the issue, Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research at Greentech Media/GTM research said SolarWorld's latest petition had so far been underplayed in the media "given its potential magnitude". "It'll be #1 topic by April," he predicted.

The USITC will report the findings of its investigation on 24 February.

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