Trade case: Taiwan investigates 7 solar manufacturers

Seven local Taiwanese solar manufacturers are being handed over to prosecutors for investigation by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, reports the Taipei Times. The manufacturers in question have reportedly been mislabeling solar products made in China as coming from Taiwan. Allegedly, when they were discovered, they threatened ministry officials.

Speaking to reporters in Taiwan last week, Bureau of Foreign Trade Deputy Director-General, David Hsu said the seven manufacturers were fined back in July, having been found guilty of mislabeling solar products, in order to circumvent trade tariffs in the EU for products made in China.

The manufacturers then allegedly threatened the officials. "Not only do the accused have no regrets about what they have done, they have also allegedly lobbied, threatened and pressured ministry officials, trying to get away from this," Hsu was reported as saying. He did not unveil their identities, as they have now been handed over to prosecutors.

Following the fines in July, the bureau unveiled a new export policy, effective August 26, for solar products destined for the EU. Bicycles and screws were also included in the updated policy. The changes mean companies now have to obtain, in advance, a "Special Goods Export Permit for Enterprises in Free Trade Zones," which is issued by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

"This action is taken in order to prevent products made in China from having access to Free Trade Zones for transshipment and being falsely declared as products made in Taiwan, thereby circumventing EU anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties imposed on products made in China, and thus causing the EU to launch anti-circumvention investigations on similar products made in Taiwan, which affect the rights of Taiwanese enterprises," explained the bureau at the time.

Prior to this, on May 25, the bureau issued a public notice regarding the application for Certificate of Origin (C/O) pertaining to the solar products exported to the EU and the U.S. In it, the bureau defined the origin country of solar cells as being "where wafers are transformed into cells," while the origin country of solar cells is "where wafers are transformed into cells."

On May 29, following a request by SolarWorld, the European Commission initiated an investigation into solar imports into the EU for products exported by Chinese suppliers, from Malaysia and Taiwan.

The investigation was launched after initial investigations turned up "a significant change in the pattern of trade involving exports from the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia and Taiwan to the Union has taken place following the imposition of the [countervailing duty] measures, without sufficient due cause or economic justification for such a change other than the imposition of the duty."

According to the Industrial Technology Research Institute, solar exports from Taiwan to the EU totaled NT$20.48 billion (US$623.44 million) in 2014.