Head of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) Jigar Shah has requested that the Obama administration follow the lead of their German counterparts and quickly seek to negotiate a settlement of the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy ‘loophole’ case requested by SolarWorld.
Shah, the former president of SunEdison, held a telephone press briefing on the eve of the announcement of a preliminary determination by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) over the matter. The saga has continued for some time, with SolarWorld bringing a second request for investigation to the ITC, this time over imports of solar cells to the US via Taiwan.
Shah said that by bringing the request to the ITC, SolarWorld had decided to “cast a cloud” on the US solar industry and risk over 24,000 jobs created last year as well as an expected 20,000 jobs that could be added in the US in 2014.
CASE represents what Shah called “the majority” of the US solar industry, including such companies as SolarCity, SunRun, Strata Solar and SunEdison. Most of CASE’s membership operates in the downstream US solar market, which represents over 80% of the US industry in total.
Shah referred again to Obama’s State of the Union Address which highlighted how solar installers’ jobs could not be outsourced as a sign of support for the industry.
“The solar industry today is such a bright spot that the president even mentioned it…where he said that solar was being pounded into rooftops by people whose jobs could not be outsourced. The industry stands together asking that the Obama administration steps in and figure out how to lift this cloud from the US solar industry,” said Shah.
PV Tech posed the question of whether, as Taiwan is an ally of the US, even if an ITC settlement found evidence of dumping, a negotiated settlement might be sought from the US side. Jigar Shah responded in the affirmative, that firstly, the broadening of the investigation to include Taiwan may mean the US government, led by the president, might “really get deeply involved in figuring out how to engage at a government-to-government level.”
PV Tech also asked whether a proposed settlement by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – in short, to renegotiate rules governing imports of solar cells with the government of China, was workable.
Shah responded by saying that although CASE did not have an official position on the SEIA proposal, he felt it was amazing that the Obama administration had not yet acknowledged it or provided feedback. He also voiced his wish that Obama should follow the lead of the German premier, Angela Merkel.
“We do think that a process by which the US government would actually work with SEIA and the rest of the solar industry to figure out what a negotiated settlement would look like, is important,” said Shah, “When you look at what happened in the EU, Angela Merkel very quickly reached out to her counterpart in China and started a dialogue that was productive and resulted in a negotiated settlement. So we’re very hopeful that process will provide inspiration to this administration to follow the same process.”
Shah ended the press briefing with an observation of similarities and difference s between the Taiwan case and the formal complaint filed by the US government over the Indian government’s decision to block US modules into the Indian market.
“This week the US government has filed a formal complaint against the government of India over its decision to block out US modules into the Indian market – the rationale for that is the US is saying free trade actually promotes lower cost modules, and it’s ironic that the US government has stayed silent in this case when the Chinese and Taiwanese are making the same case for their participation in the US market,” said Shah.