SolarWorld lodges two trade-case appeals to Court of International Trade in New York

"We are exhausting all avenues to engage well-established international trade law in countering China’s illegal trade agression, which continues to siphon clean-energy business and jobs from the U.S.," was the salvo from SolarWorld Industries America Inc. president Gordon Brinser as SolarWorld lodged two appeals challenging determinations from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

SolarWorld’s grievances are twofold. Their first argues that numerous Chinese solar PV producers were unable or unwilling to show that they operated free from government control. Their second claims that Commerce erroneously undervalued the classification of Chinese aluminum frames, leading to significantly understated antidumping duties.

The company led a 240-strong coalition of U.S.-based solar producers, financers and installers called the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing in challenging what it claimed was China’s anticompetitive campaign to illegally flood the U.S. market with solar products at dumped, artificially low prices, backed by massive government subsidies.

Towards the end of 2012, the U.S. government introduced duties on Chinese suppliers ranging between 31% to 250%. But in appeals to the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, SolarWorld argues that those companies that failed to show they were free of Chinese government ownership or control should have been subjected to a China-wide rate of 250%, rather than the separate antidumping rates they received.

"U.S. costs to make and deliver solar technology for the U.S. market are lower than those of Chinese producers," added Brinser, "Our better record of solar-equipment reliability, R&D and quality is also far longer. Moreover, we have the law – and history – on our side: free trade is not trade without rules.

"But to fairly compete, we need our federal trade-law enforcement system to show fortitude in applying that law. It is not enough to adjudicate cases without attention to the underlying industry and market realities of resulting remedies. We are still asking for these thoroughly investigated illegal trade practices to be actually stopped."

SolarWorld has also alleged that Commerce mistakenly waived a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ruling that was intended to determine the proper classification of aluminum frames being introduced to the U.S. market by one of China’s largest solar producers. Commerce failed to use proper classification, argues SolarWorld, resulting in a substantial undervaluation of the frames, leading to understated antidumping margins against the companies in question.

Since a previous smuggling and dumping case in June, aluminum extrusions originating from China are subject to substantial trade duties. Commerce has been investigating such trade-duty evasion matters since April, and had asked the CBP to introduce enhanced import reviews and enforcement based on the evidence gathered.

However, some Chinese producers have begun claiming their solar panels use non-Chinese cells in an effort to legally avoid trade remedies. Their actions are a result of a loophole created by Commerce when it ruled that Chinese producers could import solar panels duty-free provided they were made in China from solar cells manufactured in third-party countries. ??This so-called scope ruling has also been appealed by SolarWorld, and will be addressed by the Court of International Trade once the antidumping appeals have been investigated.