Franky Boy did it21. October 2011 By: Karl-Heinz Remmers
Together with unnamed U.S. companies Frank Asbeck, chairman at Solarworld AG, submitted a “petition” to the U.S. government “against cheap imports from China.” Thus actions now follow his strong words against the “industrial war” of the Chinese solar industry.
Informed circles and media reports indicate that the “petition” is serious, and that it demands that substantial tariffs be imposed. Apparently the “petition” is quite controversial because if it is officially accepted within twenty days and proceedings are actually opened, then a kind of legal vacuum would develop from a European point of view.
With a decision for the applicants in such proceedings the tariff could also be requested retroactively to the point in time when the petition was received. Should this be the case then the cost of items imported into the U.S. from China would be almost impossible to calculate, for importers from this moment on.
If there is a tariff on solar cells, as described in an FTD report, then the lights will go out for numerous module manufacturers in the U.S. (or their purchase prices will rise sharply) as they would lose their upstream suppliers by the dozens. This development should also be interesting for American companies like Sunpower that largely manufacture in China.
Such a development will presumably have repercussions throughout the entire international photovoltaics market, since developments have indicated that none of the participants are wearing kid gloves and that a serious trade conflict is in the offing instead. China will hardly allow the U.S. to dictate its economic policy and at the same time serious anti-Chinese sentiment has arisen in the U.S., as Americans have now realized the necessity of their own domestic production.
Though often discussed, such proceedings have not been initiated in the photovoltaics sector in the European Union thus far. However, they do exist in various other segments with, at times, drastic tariff consequences. A precedent in the U.S. would surely intensify the discussion of similar steps in the EU and certainly also result in countermeasures by the Chinese.
The protests of Chinese companies today are already very loud and clear. However, the "petition" may also result in precise investigation of the accusations far away from the rumbling gunfire of corporate PR and provide the opportunity to see what game is really being played.
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