The preliminary imposition of anti-dumping (AD) duties on Chinese and Taiwanese solar products by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) on Friday drove another wedge between the domestic solar industry.
SolarWorld Industries America Inc., which led the original 2012 claim, was gratified by the DOCs decision to issue AD tariffs of between 26-165% on imports of crystalline silicon solar PV cells and modules from China and Taiwan, having also filed the case in December last year to close the loophole that allowed Chinese companies to assemble their products in Taiwan for shipment to the U.S. market.
"We and our workers are gratified to hear that the U.S. government once again has moved to block foreign government interference in our economy and clear the way for the domestic production industry to be able to compete on a level playing field," said SolarWorld Industries America Inc. president, Mukesh Dulani. "We should not have to compete with dumped imports or the Chinese government. Today’s actions should help the U.S. solar manufacturing industry to expand and innovate."
Commenting from the other side of the increasingly cavernous divide, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) called the DOC’s determination an unnecessary obstacle for the U.S. solar industry, and a move that will only serve to hinder the deployment of clean energy in the country by increasing the cost of solar products for consumers.
"Due to these tariffs, previously viable projects will go unbuilt, American workers will go unhired and consumers that could have saved money through solar energy may not be able to benefit," said CASE president Jigar Shah, who remarked of his "particular disappointment" that the DOC is still also considering SolarWorlds request to expand the scope of products affected by the dispute.
"Accepting a broader scope would disregard decades of legal precedent that define scope using the ‘single country of origin’ and ‘substantial transformation’ trade rules," Shah said, before urging SolarWorld AG the German-headquartered parent company of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., to work more closely with the U.S. solar industry to engineer a more favorable win-win solution.
"CASE members demand a solution that ends uncertainty in the marketplace by preventing further trade litigation and allows solar power to compete cost-effectively with traditional energy sources, thus enabling the market’s further growth," added Shah, who suggested all parties consider the settlement proposal put forward by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch, also critical of what he called a "seriously damaging" decision, said that the fact that the DOC’s final AD ruling will not be until mid-December represented a slither of a silver lining, opening up a window of opportunity for closer dialogue between all parties. "The U.S. and Chinese governments, SolarWorld, and Chinese manufacturers now have the chance to move forward on settlement decisions. SEIA got the ball rolling in this direction first by proposing a negotiated solution and then bringing the parties together. Now it is time to start bargaining in earnest."
Yingli Green Energy, the Chinese giant that was hit with a 42.33% AD duty rate (combined AD/countervailing duty tariff of 47.27%), said that the decision will do little more than increase the price of solar energy in the U.S. and severely jeopardize the solar industry’s remarkable progress in cost-competitiveness and affordability.
"While we have fully cooperated throughout this investigation and were prepared for this preliminary decision, we ask that our industry comes together to resolve this dispute and focus on the growth of the promising U.S. market," said Yingli Green Americas Inc. MD Robert Petrina. "We remain committed to the U.S. solar market and will continue to support our partners and projects."
Yingli’s charman and CEO, Liansheng Miao, also waded into the debate, adding: "As a result of protectionist trade policies that raise prices and slow the deployment of solar power, we anticipate that significantly fewer people in the U.S. and globally will experience the long-term economic and environmental benefits of widespread solar adoption."
Although experts agree that the high tariffs will come to represent a nigh-on insurmountable barrier for most Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers to sell into the U.S., Resch remained confident that the fabled "win-win" scenario was still a possibility. "Today, the involved parties are finally engaged and all sides seem committed to finding a negotiated solution," he added.
The DOC’s final AD ruling is expected to be confirmed on December 16, and the International Trade Commission (ITC) is expected to confirm the ruling on January 29, 2014.