Proposed change in scope of US-China trade case unlikely to have major impact

On Friday October 3, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) sent a letter to parties in the current anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against Chinese and Taiwanese solar products, seeking comment on a widening of the scope of the investigation.

Under the current scope, tariffs have been applied to Chinese PV cells and modules under the “two out of three” rule – meaning tariffs on products where two of three main manufacturing steps are performed in China. However, DOC is now considering applying tariffs to modules made in China, using cells produced in any third-party nation.

Tariffs would also apply to Taiwanese modules regardless of the origin of the cells, as well as modules made with Taiwanese cells, regardless of where the modules are assembled.

Despite this substantial widening of the case, GTM Research says this will impact few companies. GTM Research Lead Upstream Analyst Shyam Mehta notes that major Chinese PV makers like Trina are simply choosing to pay the lower 2012 tariffs on cell manufacturing.

“I don’t see it really having an impact on the way that Chinese suppliers are doing business,” Mehta told PV Magazine. “They are shipping in all-Chinese manufactured product, and then paying the tariff on cell manufacturing.”

One of the few companies that could be affected by the new case is Suniva, which makes PV cells in the United States but uses OEM module assembly in China.

DOC will make a decision about the proposed change in scope some time before the December 16th final ruling on the anti-dumping and CVD cases. DOC press staff were not able to provide a more precise estimate of timing.