The US government has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over India's national solar programme, claiming it is “discriminatory” against US solar manufacturers.
It has requested the WTO initiate dispute settlement consultations with India following the Ministry of Commerce’s anti-dumping investigation against US solar manufacturers.
United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced: “Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the rapid deployment of solar energy around the world, including with India. Unfortunately, India’s discriminatory policies in its national solar programme detract from that successful cooperation, raise the cost of clean energy, and undermine progress toward our shared objective.
“We will not hesitate to enforce our rights under our trade agreements on behalf of American workers and manufacturers,” said Kirk.
Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the US Solar Energy Industries Association released the following statement in support of the Obama administration’s actions:
“The National Solar Mission’s local content requirement unfairly discriminates against US solar cell and module manufacturers.
“The use of discriminatory localisation barriers to bolster domestic interests is a growing trend within the global solar industry which must be reversed. We are hopeful that today’s action by the US government will encourage not only India but other countries contemplating the imposition of localization barriers to focus instead on WTO-consistent government support measures.”
Hari Manoharan from Indian RESolve Energy Consultants, told PV-Tech: “It should be noted that the US manufacturers, particularly First Solar, has been enjoying significant market share in India mostly due to the low interest rates offered by the US Ex-Im banks for US manufactured PV modules. This also works to skew the market (in favour of the US manufacturers) as low interest rate financing is a huge benefit for project developers and plays a key role in maximising profits.
“Essentially this translates to lower price modules comparable (in price) to say Chinese imports. Again, the domestic module manufacturers are taking the hit in this case.”
Manoharan also said, “If we are going to follow the WTO guidelines word for word then the US government may have a favourable case”.
Earlier this week, Indian publication The Hindu reported a petition by the Solar Independent Power Producers Association (SIPPA) of India to the government asking it to retract its investigation.
SIPPA said: “In such a situation imposition of anti-dumping duty on solar photovoltaic modules would be counter productive to the country’s solar aspirations. The domestic manufacturers are totally dependent on other countries for import of raw material, it would be detrimental to those manufacturers as any anti-dumping action would invite retaliatory action by imposition of higher export duties or ban on export of silicon waters and cells. No provisional or final anti-dumping duty should be imposed on solar photovoltaic modules.”
In November 2012, the Indian Ministry of Commerce initiated anti-dumping investigations against China, Malaysia, Taiwan as well as the US, following a complaint from the Indian Solar Manufacturers’ Association.