China issues stiff response

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In the latest example of tit-for-tat solar salvos, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) has reportedly fired a warning shot over the bows of the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding its latest anti dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations.

A Reuters report carried by the Huffington Post website yesterday quoted a statement from the Mofcom website warning U.S. legislators Chinese officials had "expressed serious concern" about the move.

The Department of Commerce is considering whether to expand the AD and CVD regime applied to Chinese-made modules to also encompass Taiwanese-made products amid claims Chinese manufacturers have switched cell fabrication to Taiwain so the resulting modules, assembled in China or Taiwan, do not have U.S. duties applied to them.

The Reuters report said the Chinese ministry "urges the U.S. again to carefully handle the current investigations, be prduent in taking measures and terminate the investigation proceedings," before going on to add that Mofcom will assess the impact of the investigation and resulting measures on the Chinese solar industry and would "robustly defend" itself.

And the sabre-rattling from China was not solely directed at the U.S. with the Mofcom website also carrying a more subtly-worded warning for European solar manufacturers.

With the EU having confirmed at Christmas that the same loophole would exempt any panels assembled from Taiwanese cells from the summer’s minimum module price and export cap agreement, there is the possibility EU legislators could be pressured into imitating the latest U.S. move.

With that in mind, Mofcom yesterday also briefly announced it had found subsidies were being applied to exports of solar grade polysilicon from the EU to China and also that such poly was being dumped in China with material injury to its solar industry as a result.

Despite the findings, Mofcom announced it would not apply anti subsidy (AS) or anti dumping duties on such polysilicon "for the moment."

Those final three words could further dampen the optimism voiced by EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht on Friday when he lauded the promise made by Europe and a dozen other nations – including the U.S. and China – to remove trade barriers from a list of ‘green goods‘ which includes solar cells, panels and inverters.

The next bout of rhetoric could occur as the Department of Commerce announces a the results of its preliminary AD and CVD investigations, on February 14.