Energy & Environment

Feds slap tariffs on Chinese solar panels

The Commerce Department will impose steep new tariffs on solar panels from China and Taiwan, the latest step in the government’s fight against allegations that the panels were being sold in the United States below manufacturing costs.

The tariffs are meant to close a loophole that U.S. officials say China has avoided by using photovoltaic cells made in Taiwan.

{mosads}Manufacturers would then sell the panels in the United States with large subsidies by the Chinese government, a practice known as dumping.

The new duties range from mean added costs between 26.71 percent and 165.04 percent to counteract dumping of Chinese panels.

The decision calls for duties ranging from 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent on the dumping of Taiwanese imported solar cells, the Commerce Department  announced late Tuesday.

The decision also includes anti-subsidy tariffs of 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent for Chinese modules.

The Commerce Department announcement comes as U.S. and Chinese officials are set to meet in Chicago on the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade on Thursday and Friday. 

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said last week that officials from both nations are continuing to work on a satisfactory outcome on the issue. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) welcomed the news.

“The facts show that these foreign producers are breaking the rules, plain and simple,” Wyden said in a statement.

“Oregon solar manufacturers can compete with anyone in the world, as long as the other countries are forced to play by the rules,” he said. “This decision provides the relief U.S. manufacturers badly need to thrive and continue restoring lost jobs.” 

SolarWorld Americas, which is based in Oregon, had brought the complaint to the department’s attention, resulting in Tuesday’s ruling.

“These remedies come just in time to enable the domestic industry to return to conditions of fair trade,” Mukesh Dulani, U.S. president of SolarWorld, said in a statement.

“The tariffs and scope set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories on U.S. soil.”

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee also praised the decision.

“Chinese producers are currently attempting to evade previously ordered duties by outsourcing a small part of the solar panel production process to third countries in order to avoid duties designed to ensure a level playing field,” Levin said in a statement.

“Today, the Department of Commerce has sent an important signal to the Chinese and others who attempt to circumvent U.S. laws that the United States will effectively enforce its trade remedy laws.”

But not all solar panel businesses were pleased with the steps taken. 

The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) said the decision could damage the U.S. market.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce to further tax solar panels from China, even those with key components made in the U.S., will undercut the growth of American solar jobs, hurt the American solar industry and make it more difficult for solar technology to compete against fossil fuels,” said CASE President Jigar Shah said in a statement.

“These unnecessary taxes inhibit competition and put upward pressure on solar panel prices needed by U.S. homeowners, installers and utilities,” he said. 

The International Trade Commission (ITC) is expected to make a decision by Jan. 29 on whether the U.S. industry has been harmed by Chinese and Taiwanese imports. If so, the tariffs will become permanent on Feb. 1, otherwise they will be nixed.

— This post was updated at 11:53 a.m.

Tags Commerce Department Dumping Michael Froman Ron Wyden Sander Levin solar panels Solar power SolarWorld
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