US trade case could see American factories make ‘Chinese’ solar products

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The latest solar trade case brought in the US could see American companies produce “Chinese” solar products, if the petitioner SolarWorld’s terms were met, according to a lawyer representing Chinese PV manufacturers.

At present, the country of origin of a module is defined by where the cell is produced. SolarWorld is unhappy that Chinese firms are able to use Taiwanese cells in their modules and circumvent US trade duties on panels from China in the process.

“Under their view of the world, a Chinese wafer that is made into a cell in the US and then sent to China for assembly is a Chinese module,” said Richard Wiener, partner at law firm Sidley Austin, who is representing the Chinese solar industry.

SolarWorld wants the origin of a module to be based on a 'two out of three' rule where the location of the wafer production, cell and module assembly are all considered.

“Suniva, one of the leading US cell companies has filed comments criticising the two out of three rule for exactly that reason. It says its products are American, they contain an American cell. Under the two out of three rule, they’d be treated as Chinese,” said Weiner.

“SolarWorld is trying to muddy the water and re-write the rule book,” added Weiner.

Were this to happen, it would mean US produced modules – that is panels containing US cells – would have to pay punitive import duties following assembly in China.

In a submission to the US Department of Commerce, seen by PV Tech, Suniva’s lawyers said:

“The confusion and potential absurdity is especially apparent when applied to Suniva’s production. Suniva has a large production of cells in the United States…the cells are of US origin, when shipped to China they experience a relatively minor operation, described by the Department as “a comparatively less sophisticated process than cell conversion,” as noted above. Upon importation into the United States, these modules are not of Chinese origin for ADD/CVD purposes, as clearly described by the Department. Nonetheless, the proposed scope of the instant petition seems to be proposing that duties would be applied to these US origin goods. This seems unreasonable on its face…”

Read Richard Weiner’s full interview with PV Tech.

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