Chinese modules could soon make it to the United States tariff-free by way of Mexico, according to EnergyTrend, the green energy division of research group TrendForce.
Examining the recent U.S. Commerce Departments recent preliminary ruling on countervailing duties (CVD) against Chinese manufacturers of solar panels and cells, EnergyTrend predicts Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers will come up with different strategies to reduce the impact of tariffs if the final ruling is in line with the preliminary ruling and if product volume caps and pricing limitations are not imposed.
"For Chinese manufacturers, modules origins are defined by where they were assembled," EnergyTrend says. "Therefore, Chinese module manufacturers may turn to outsourcing in other countries."
The research group says Mexico is the most likely nation for Chinese manufacturers to build pipelines overseas.
In contrast, Taiwanese manufacturers are less likely to establish foreign factories because its manufacturing capacity is far smaller than that of China and its main export markets remain Japan and Europe. Some Taiwanese manufacturers have built PV factories overseas, however, and they may also consider the possibility of expanding their existing foreign production capacities.
Chinese solar manufacturers have considered setting up shop in Mexico in the past in order to serve the U.S. and local markets. Among the companies that have shown interest in investing in Mexico in recent years is JA Solar. With several fabs in the country, Mexico has the largest solar module production in Latin America. Yet a number of solar factories in Mexico have closed in recent years, including those of Japanese electronics giant Panasonic and Spanish company Siliken, both of which halted production of modules in Mexico in 2012.
The U.S. Commerce Department last week announced plans to impose new import tariffs on PV modules from China after concluding Chinese manufacturers had been unfairly benefitting from government subsidies.
The tariffs would range from 18.56% to 35.21%, the department said, adding that the U.S.’ countervailing duty law protects U.S. business and workers from "market distorting effects caused by injurious subsidization of imports into the United States" and establishes "a level playing field."