US DOC forestalls finding in SolarWorld trade petition until March 20


The announcement of the preliminary finding in the CVD case now has been delayed until March 20; the target date for resolution of the related anti-dumping petition remains March 28.

This is the third time that the Commerce Department has demurred on the decision, which could create waves in the delicate trade relationship between the two world powers. The CVD finding was first expected on January 12; then, pushed back to February 13; and then put off until March 2. At this point, the determination actually will be made on March 19 and released on March 20.

The case has been in a holding pattern since last October, when seven U.S. photovoltaic manufacturer, led by SolarWorld Industries America, a subsidiary of Bonn-based SolarWorld AG, filed a petition with the (DOC) and the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), alleging that Chinese companies were receiving illegal financial backing from their government and selling solar panels below-cost in the U.S. market. The American manufacturers are now joined under the banner of The Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM).

Under the trade action by CASM, it falls to the Commerce Department to determine whether the claims of illegal subsidies and dumping are legitimate – and, if so, the veritable dumping margin and the subsidy amount. SolarWorld has asked for tariffs as high as 100 percent.

On December 2, the USITC, in its parallel investigation, found "a reasonable indication" that American manufacturers had been "materially injured" by Chinese imports.

So far, CASM contends, China’s solar export drive has cost Americans about 2,000 direct jobs nationwide and many more at the subcontractor level. U.S. energy officials say China spent more than $30 billion last year to subsidize its solar industry.

However, the trade petition has caused controversy within the U.S. industry. In a letter dated December 20 to SolarWorld President Gordon Brinser, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) – a group that says it represents more than 90 percent of the American solar sector, as well as several Chinese manufacturers – asked CASM to withdraw from the fray, stating, "The severe tariffs SolarWorld seeks would have a very damaging effect on the solar industry in the United States ….In simple dollar terms, your petition threatens the planned installation of solar electric power systems in the amount of $11 billion in 2012 and the potential installation of $60 billion currently in the total pipeline."

CASM is standing firm. In reaction to what he characterizes as a "final" delay, Brinser commented, "This third extension is unfortunate, but is also common in complex cases," adding, "The Department of Commerce extended its investigation an additional 17 days to give investigators sufficient time to review the responses from two of the Chinese respondents. SolarWorld and its CASM partners look forward to results of Commerce's careful, thorough investigation and to a successful outcome for U.S. workers and American solar manufacturing."

CASE had no comment at press time.

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