The six commissioners of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Nov. 7 voted unanimously that domestic producers of photovoltaic solar panels are harmed by similar imports dumped on the U.S. market by government-subsidized Chinese producers.
As a result of the ITC’s affirmative determinations, the Commerce Department will issue antidumping and countervailing duty orders on imports of these products from China.
The Commerce Department previously made affirmative critical circumstances determinations in its investigations. Therefore, the ITC commissioners who made affirmative determinations are required to determine whether imports covered by the Commerce “critical circumstances” determinations are likely to “undermine seriously the remedial effect of the antidumping and countervailing duty orders Commerce will issue.”
With regard to critical circumstances, Commissioners Daniel R. Pearson, Shara L. Aranoff, David S. Johanson, and Meredith M. Broadbent voted in the negative. Chairman Irving A. Williamson and Commissioner Dean A. Pinkert voted in the affirmative with respect to critical circumstances.
In addition, the commissioners determined the antidumping and countervailing duty orders concerning solar panel imports from China will not apply retroactively to goods that entered the United States during the period of the investigation.
Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, and head of the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), said the ITC’s vote “confirms what has been apparent in the marketplace for the past two years — Chinese manufacturers, with the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government, have attempted to game the international trading system in order to gain a virtual monopoly on solar cells and modules sales in the U.S. market.”
The ITC investigation, initiated by Hillsboro, Ore.-based SolarWorld in 2011, covers 14 U.S. solar cell and panel producers, with plants located in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin. In 2011, there were 1,856 employees associated with U.S. production of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules.
The ratio of solar panel imports from China to U.S. consumption in 2011 was 57.4 percent. The Commerce Department noted the value of these imports into the United States that year was $1.9 billion.
Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), said the ITC’s decision “marks the end of a distracting and politically-charged trade case between the U.S. and China regarding imports of solar cells.
“Although this ruling was anticipated given the ITC’s low threshold for injury determinations, we are nevertheless disappointed that they have left in place the Commerce Department’s tariffs on solar cell imports. Fortunately, the scope of the decision is unchanged and is limited to solar cells produced in China, thereby minimizing harm to the U.S. solar industry,” he added.
“We will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the U.S. and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution,” Shah said. “Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today’s interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition.”
The European Union has its own ongoing antidumping investigations against imports of Chinese solar panels, and the Chinese government is expected to retaliate against other European and U.S. industries through similar allegations and investigations. — Chris Gillis