For the first time, the US Department of Commerce has issued a finding, ahead of the preliminary determination on duties, scheduled for March 2. In order to prevent “a massive, evasive surge of Chinese solar cell and panel imports”, the department has proposed that countervailing duties will apply to all imports of cells and modules from Chinese exporters that were brought into the United States starting December 3, 2011.

The department is scheduled to issue a separate preliminary ruling on anti-dumping duties on March 27. The Department of Commerce will issue a separate critical-circumstances ruling in the anti-dumping investigation. Separately, the US International Trade Commission issued a unanimous preliminary determination on December 2 stating that these imports are harming the US solar manufacturing industry.

“After several years of massive imports of illegally subsidized and dumped Chinese solar products, the US solar manufacturing industry and its workers greatly appreciate the Department of Commerce’s finding that importers of Chinese products have mounted a massive surge in product to evade accountability to US and international trade law,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America. “Recognizing that an attempt at circumvention can happen, the trade law allows Commerce to act against such abusive behaviour. We value Commerce’s decision, and we hope that it will send a clear message to the marketplace about Commerce’s commitment to using all of its tools to combat unfair trade.

“We filed these trade cases as a key step to rekindle growth in America’s renewable energy manufacturing and jobs,” continued Brinser. “SolarWorld and CASM believe that free trade is trade free of illegal governmental intervention. Robust and legal international competition, not predatory pricing that relies on massive and improper subsidies, will produce the best products and sustainable price declines over the long term. Today, we are one step closer to these aims.”

However, as reported earlier today, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) found in a study that tariff duties on Chinese manufacturers would do more harm than good.