SEIA blasts SolarWorld legal action, calls for peaceful resolution to US-China trade dispute


The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has expressed its opposition to new U.S. trade petitions filed by SolarWorld USA against crystalline silicon solar products from China and Taiwan last week.

SolarWorld announced on Dec. 31 that it was taking further steps to counter what it said were ongoing anti-competitive trade practices that the U.S. government determined were unfairly harming the U.S. domestic solar industry.

While SolarWorld said it was acting on behalf of the domestic industry as a whole, SEIA rejected the move. SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said the organization opposed the escalation of the U.S.-China solar trade conflict.

"More litigation is the wrong approach. Trade litigation is a blunt instrument and, alone, incapable of resolving the complex competitiveness issues that exist between the U.S. and Chinese solar industries. It's time to end this conflict and negotiations must play a role," Resch added.

SolarWorld said it had submitted anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce against China and Taiwan to "close a loophole in trade remedies issued a year ago this month. The loophole enables Chinese producers to evade duties averaging about 31% by assembling modules from cells manufactured in third countries."

As a result, the company said, China had continued to improperly subsidize its export-intensive campaign and sell below production costs in the U.S. market to seize market share.

SolarWorld cited research, including a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, that it said concluded that China had no solar production cost advantage.

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"We're finishing the job of presenting the facts to our trade regulators to prevent China from further damaging yet another manufacturing industry and another rich base of employment," said Mukesh Dulani, president of SolarWorld Industries America in Hillsboro, Oregon. "China obviously recognizes the key importance of solar-technology manufacturing to future economic competitiveness. But we do, too. Therefore, we are once again simply asking our trade regulators to investigate the facts and apply the well-established laws that enable free trade, robust competition and lower long-term pricing. If fair competition can be restored, the U.S. industry will return to growth."

SEIA's Resch, however, said the trade organization had been encouraging the U.S. and Chinese governments as well as key industry stakeholders for more than a year to find common ground. To that aim, the association even offered a settlement proposal of its own.

"SEIA's proposal provides a mutually-satisfactory resolution which recognizes the interests of all solar stakeholders and not just one segment of the industry. To the best of our knowledge, however, the U.S. and Chinese governments have neither adopted SEIA's proposal as the basis for negotiations nor put forth any meaningful offer to resolve the broader conflict. It's time for both governments to get in the game and end this conflict — we urge the United States and China to immediately commit to serious, results-driven negotiations."

SolarWorld Industries America originally submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission in October 2011 against Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers for allegedly dumping product to capture market share.

The U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously determined in November 2012 that Chinese photovoltaic imports materially injured the U.S. industry and agreed to apply anti-dumping and countervailing duties on all crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, modules, laminates and panels coming into the U.S. from China. However, the Trade Commission declined to impose tariffs on modules made in China using cells manufactured in third countries, leading SolarWorld to seek separate action.

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