The Commerce Department on Wednesday announced its final determinations affirming Chinese-made solar cell imports are both dumped on the U.S. market and benefit from Chinese government subsidies.
Dumping occurs when a foreign company sells a product in the United States at less than its fair value, while countervailable subsidies are financial assistance from foreign governments to support goods production from domestic companies or are contingent either on export performance or the use of domestic goods over imported goods.
Solar cells are produced from ultra-refined polysilicon and are the building blocks of solar photovoltaic power-generation systems, which convert the energy of sunlight directly into electricity.
Commerce determined Chinese producers/exporters have sold solar cells in the United States at dumping margins ranging from 18.32 to 249.96 percent. The department also determined Chinese producers/exporters have received countervailable subsidies of 14.78 to 15.97 percent.
In the antidumping investigation, Suntech Power Co., Ltd., which includes Wuxi Suntech Power Co., Ltd., Luoyang Suntech Power Co., Ltd., and Wuxi Sun-Shine Power Co., Ltd., was determined to have a final dumping margin of 31.73 percent. Changzhou Trina Solar Energy Co., Ltd., which includes Trina Solar (Changzhou) Science & Technology Co., Ltd., was determined to have a final dumping margin of 18.32 percent.
Fifty-nine other exporters qualified for a separate dumping rate of 25.96 percent. All remaining Chinese exporters received a final dumping rate of 249.96 percent, Commerce said.
In the countervailing duty investigation, Wuxi Suntech Power Co., Ltd., and 10 of its affiliates, was determined to have a final net subsidy rate of 14.78 percent. Changzhou Trina Solar Energy Co., Ltd. and Trina Solar (Changzhou) Science & Technology Co., Ltd. was determined to have a final net subsidy rate of 15.97 percent.
All other Chinese producers/exporters received a final net subsidy rate of 15.24 percent.
As a result of the final antidumping determination, Commerce will instruct Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits or bonds equal to the applicable weighted-average dumping margins. In response to its affirmative final countervailing determination, the department will order the resumption of the suspension of liquidation and require a cash deposit equal to the final net subsidy rates if the U.S. International Trade Commission issues a final affirmative injury determination.
Merchandise covered by these investigations is currently classified in the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule under subheadings 8501.61.0000, 8507.20.80, 8541.40.6020, 8541.40.6030, and 8501.31.8000.
In 2011, imports of solar cells from China were valued at an estimated $3.1 billion. However, the solar cells subject to these investigations are classified within HTS basket categories that contain products beyond the scope of the investigations.
Going forward, the ITC is scheduled to make its final determination by Nov. 23. If the ITC makes an affirmative final determination that imports of solar cells from China injure U.S. domestic industry, Commerce will issue antidumping and countervailing duty orders. If the ITC makes a negative determination of injury, the investigations will be terminated, Commerce said.
The 226-company Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) welcomed parts of Commerce's announcement regarding duties on Chinese solar cells and panels but was disappointed with other parts. The decision came nearly one year after Oregon-based coalition leader SolarWorld Industries America filed its cases.
CASM noted Commerce in its decision did not alter its preliminary determination on the product scope, which covered photovoltaic cells produced or assembled into panels in China but not panels made from cells produced in third countries. SolarWorld's initial, broader scope had covered all cells and panels produced in China. This decision, according to CASM, leaves a “significant loophole” in the final ruling as it allows Chinese manufacturers to potentially avoid the duties by using non-Chinese cells in their solar panels.
"We remain confident that American manufacturers can compete with China on an equal footing," said Steve Ostrenga, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Helios Solar Works USA, one of the founding members of CASM. "Helios, and the other manufacturing members of CASM, is in this battle to win it. Assuming an adequate response from the Obama administration on enforcement, we have some hope that there will continue to be a viable solar manufacturing base in the United States."
Over the past two years, CASM said China's trade practices and capacity have pushed at least 14 crystalline silicon solar producers to close plants or lay off significant numbers of workers. The two most recent closures include a Schott Solar facility in New Mexico and a Sharp Solar plant in Tennessee.
Chinese trade practices have also been blamed for harming manufacturers in other countries. Earlier this year, a coalition of European manufacturers filed both antidumping and anti-subsidy duty cases in the European Union.
“At the same time, Chinese manufacturers have endured hundreds of billions of dollars in losses over the past year and at least two – Suntech and LDK Solar – have received bailouts from Chinese provincial governments that have allowed them to continue operations,” CASM said.
The Chinese government and solar cell manufacturers criticized the U.S. imposition of import duties.
In a widely reported statement, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang warned "The United States is inciting trade friction in new energy and sending a negative signal to the whole world about protectionism and obstructing the development of new energy development."
A spokesman for Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. told the Associated Press
that 30 percent tariffs imposed on the company's solar cells would "mean the door is closed for exporting to the United States."