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All six commissioners from the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) have unanimously ruled in favour of the US Department of Commerce (DoC) issuing anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders on imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules from China.

The ITC had determined that Chinese PV products are subsidised and sold in the United States at less than fair value, thereby materially injuring the US solar industry.

The vote by the ITC will activate final anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports that the DoC issued in October, ranging from a combined rate of about 24% up to more than 250%, depending on the company.

SolarWorld, who submitted its trade case against Chinese manufacturers in October 2010, said, “US producers are grateful for the diligence that the ITC and its staff invested in this complex case at the crossroads of the world’s energy future.”

“The vote comes too late for hundreds of American workers laid off from more than two dozen US factories that China’s state-sponsored export campaign drove into financial peril,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, based in Oregon. “But the decision offers some hope to survivors that China might be held accountable to its legal obligations and that this US-pioneered industry might see a fair chance to play a growing role in the nation’s energy independence.”

Excluded from the scope of this investigation are thin-film PV products produced from amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). The DoC and ITC ruling also excludes modules, laminates and panels produced in China from cells produced in a third country are not covered by this investigation.

“Under government support, Chinese companies are pursuing ways to circumvent duties, partly by availing themselves of a loophole that Commerce created when it redefined the scope of SolarWorld’s cases,” said Brinser.

Suntech, the world’s largest producer of solar panels, called SolarWorld’s campaign “hypocritical”.

"However, we are pleased with the ITC's final ruling to reject Commerce's critical circumstances decision and remove the 90-day retroactivity of tariffs. It was apparent to everyone within the solar industry that heightened market demand in Q4 2011 was driven by the expiry of the 1603 cash grant program," said Mick McDaniel, managing director of Suntech America.

Trina Solar is currently evaluating whether it is necessary and prudent to appeal these final determinations issued by the ITC.

"We are disappointed by the Commission's vote to impose protectionist trade measures, which we believe may slow solar-related investments in the United States and delay affordable market access to our most efficient cell technology-based products," said Jifan Gao, chairman and chief executive officer of Trina Solar. "As announced previously, we are prepared for this outcome and will continue to abide by our contractual commitments. This will not affect the offering of product lines that are not subject to these duties."

"We are most thankful for the support and loyalty of our US customers and project and business partners over the past year," said Mark Mendenhall, president of Trina Solar Americas. "We remain committed to expanding our opportunities in the United States and throughout the Americas by offering our customers products, solutions and services to help them achieve their goals."

US support has come in the form of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), formed by a group of US solar companies against SolarWorld’s accusations against Chinese manufacturers, who has issued the following statement:

“Now that both Commerce and the ITC have ruled, we will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the US and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution. Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today’s interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition. Going forward, we must avoid a repeat of the SolarWorld saga, as the growth of the solar industry here, in Europe, and around the world is too important to be upended by one company’s self-serving crusade.”