China requests extension for US trade case settlement

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The Government of the People’s Republic of China (GOC) has this week requested its lawyers to issue a plea for more time in submitting a proposed suspension agreement in the ongoing solar trade dispute with the U.S.

The request for a week-long extension, until this Friday, August 15, applies to the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) to impose preliminary anti-dumping duties on solar cells and modules from China and Taiwan.

The GOC has instructed its legal representatives to issue the plea to the U.S. DOC in a move that some in the industry construe as an attempt to buy a little more time allowing China to reach an acceptable settlement.

Last week, representatives from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) became embroiled in a public spat with SolarWorld Americas – who originally brought the petition to bear in December last year – over the SEIA’s proposed settlement plans, which SolarWorld argued would insufficiently redress the balance.

In its Draft Recommendation to Governments for the Establishment of a U.S.-China Solar Trade Agreement, SEIA has suggested that Chinese solar manufacturers donate to a settlement fund that could then be disbursed among affected U.S. solar manufacturers. SolarWorld has so far rejected this proposal, but has made it clear that it would be willing to discuss other solutions, one of which could be the arrangement of a price undertaking that helped smooth a similar dispute between China and the EU by issuing an annual quota and quarterly adjustment on the minimum price of solar cells and modules from China.

There has been no indication yet whether the DOC will accept the Chinese government’s request for an extension.

The letter, which was addressed directly to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, affirmed that the GOC is "considering the possibility of negotiating a suspension agreement with respect to this investigation".

SEIA’s vice president of communications, Ken Johnson, told pv magazine that the industry hopes that this latest legal maneuvering helps to nudge the process towards a negotiated settlement. "If that happens, and the discussions center around some type of price undertaking, we will do everything possible to help develop an agreement that has the least possible impact on the U.S. solar industry. We’re still optimistic that this long-running, divisive solar trade war can be settled fairly and equitably," Johnson said.