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Temporary compromise on US-China solar PV trade spat

The US Department of Commerce has set countervailing duties to a lower-than-expected 2.9-4.73% as a compromise in the trade spat between US solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers and China, analyst EuPD Research says.

By Kari Williamson

The provisional compromise comes as US attempts to work against imports of subsidised Chinese solar PV modules have led to protests and petitions by the large Chinese manufacturers.

The US still reserves a final decision on the not yet decided anti-dumping allegations for May.

The basis for the countervailing duties level, is the government subsidies of more than US$30 billion that Chinese manufacturers like Suntech Power, Trina Solar and other companies have already received.

Commerce studied 30 state funded programmes from which the Chinese manufacturers benefit financially.

Lifted tariffs on all modules

The Department of Commerce has, however, lifted tariffs on all solar PV modules, laminates and panels that contain solar cells manufactured in China. Whether the products are imported from China or another country is irrelevant.

Daniela Schrieber, Executive Vice President of the United States Hoerner Research and Consulting Corporation (HRCC), explains the loophole of the new regulation: “Since the duties can not be not levied and if the product is manufactured in China but the cells derive from another country we can assume that there will be increased imports of cells from Taiwan into China in the future. This is only one strategy to react on these challenges”

Thin-film modules from amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper-indium-gallium-selenium (CIGS) are also excluded from the compensation.

Compensation varies

The compensation in each case will depend on the level of demand on each company. Following the decision, Suntech Power will pay the least at 2.9%, Trina Solar, the most with 4.73%. All other companies will be charged 3.61%. The ministry will insist all importers pay compensation in this amount.

Many industry expert expected much higher tariffs. Ibolya Tarsoly, Senior Representative of the HRCC says:

“In the run up to the decision much higher levels of compensation were expected so therefore the preliminary decisions for the Chinese manufactures should be manageable”. Tarsoly adds: “It must be noted, however, that the US Dept. Of Commerce won’t be making the final decision until May or June. The payments could be even higher then”.

Dialogue needed

The American Association of Solar Energy Industries wants to place more emphasis on a dialogue between the governments and the industrial companies on a global level. This will allow the association to help avoid further possible escalations between different countries.

From the Chinese side of things an examination of six state funded programmes will be examined for unfair competition.

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