Chinese module manufacturer Trina Solar has complained to the US Department of Commerce for heavily penalising its participation in a disability work programme backed by the Beijing government.
The scheme, which is open to any industry in China, supports and encourages the employment of disabled people. In the ongoing anti-subsidy trade case in the US, a 9.715 duty rate was applied to the company for its use of the programme. The petitioner in the case, SolarWorld Americas, had indicated that it would be satisfied with a rate of 0.55% and originailly never alleged that the scheme should be covered by tariffs at all.
“This seemingly anodyne program was treated with remarkable severity by the department,” Trina Solar said in a submission to the case. “While the department largely followed the petitioner's line with respect to many of the alleged grants, and issued adverse rates of 0.58%, the department used a staggering 9.71 % duty rate for the Disabled Persons Programme.
“It is difficult to comprehend the Department's reasoning. Does this programme even remotely sound like a grant or programme specific to the solar industry itself? This is not a huge loan by a giant Chinese bank to provide ‘unfair’ advantages to Trina Solar. It is a programme used by Trina Solar (and any other interested company) to encourage employment of 'disabled persons'. It should not be countervailed,” the statement continued.
In December 2014, Trina Solar was assigned a punitive anti-subsidy tariff of 49.79% in the latest solar trade case. The China-wide rate was 38.72%.
In a statement issued to PV Tech, Department of Commerce spokesman Tim Truman said: “The subsidy rate assigned to Trina Solar for the ‘Deduction for Wages Paid for Placement of Disabled Persons’ programme reflects the department’s standard methodology in situations where a company fails to report information requested by the department. Despite clear instructions to report all subsidy programmes used, Trina Solar did not do so. As such, and in accordance with the law, the selection of the subsidy rate for this programme contains an adverse element.”
Trina insists however, that it filed information on the subsidy within the investigation period and had made the department aware of its use of the scheme “much earlier” in the proceedings.
Additional reporting by Conor Ryan.