SEIA proposes deal to remove US and Chinese duties

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U.S. solar industry body the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has called for the U.S. and Chinese governments to call a halt to the latest bout of their solar trade wars and has proposed the basis for a negotiated settlement between the two superpowers.

The SEIA, whose president and CEO Rhone Resche yesterday called for an end to the solar ‘saber rattling’ between the two nations, has drafted what it describes as a ‘win-win’ negotiated solution to the fast-escalating dispute.

The SEIA proposes that in return for the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission dropping the anti dumping (AD) and countervailing duties (CVD) applied to Chinese-made solar products, and calling a halt to the ongoing investigation into Chinese products featuring solar cells made in third-party countries, manufacturers in China should pay into a fund to help their U.S. counterparts.

The SEIA reasons Chinese module manufacturers looking to avoid the U.S. duties applied to products featuring Chinese cells are paying a premium to have cells made abroad, an argument substantiated by the recent news cell makers in neighbouring Taiwan have raised prices after a boom in orders from the People’s Republic.

Resch’s organization suggests the U.S. and Chinese governments agree a percentage of that premium should be used to establish a Solar Manufacturing Settlement Fund for cell, wafer and module manufacturers in the U.S.

Taiwanese manufacturers would lose out

The SEIA says under its proposal, Chinese manufacturers would be paying less than at present to manufacture products and would again have free access to the U.S. market with cell manufacturers in countries like Taiwan the only losers.

The SEIA has also suggested part of the money raised from such a negotiated settlement could be used to establish a Solar Development Institute in the U.S. to encourage the expansion of the U.S. solar market – for all countries – and the U.S. solar manufacturing base as well as fostering joint Sino-U.S. R&D and standards.

As part of the settlement proposal, the SEIA says Chinese import duties on U.S-manufactured polysilicon should also be removed and suggested a five-year agreement with the respective governments pledging not to open up any fresh AD or CVD investigations into solar products for a further 12 months after an agreement expired.

‘We’re facing a U.S. double whammy’

"Without a negotiated settlement, we’re facing a double whammy this year: Significant job losses across the entire U.S. solar supply chain and higher prices to American consumers," said Resch yesterday. "If imposed, the tariffs sought by SolarWorld – in excess of 165% in China and 75% in Taiwan – could result in a sharp increase in the cost of solar energy in the United States."

The U.S. subsidiary of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld has lobbied the U.S. authorities to close the loophole which allows Chinese manufacturers to escape duties with the third-party manufacture of cells.

"It’s time to end this needless saber rattling," added Resche. "There are common-sense ways to address SolarWorld’s competitiveness concerns while ensuring the continued growth of the U.S. solar market – and one good way to do that is through a settlement proposal offered by the SEIA.

"As an organization, we remain committed to developing a win-win solution, which would resolve SolarWorld’s latest complaint, in addition to the broader U.S.-China trade conflict. It’s time to negotiate a settlement – not litigate one. As a nation, too much is at stake for us to fail."

The call to get industry representatives in China and the U.S. around the table to negotiate a solution that excludes third-party countries could shed light on reports today Taiwanese cell makers are unhappy with the efforts of Chinese module makers to represent them during the AD CVD investigations being conducted by the U.S. authorities.