(Adds details of complaint, industry context and background)
WASHINGTON, June 3 The United States slapped new
import duties on solar panels and other related products from
China on Tuesday after the Commerce department ruled they were
produced using Chinese government subsidies, potentially
inflaming trade tensions between the two countries.
The U.S. arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG
filed a petition complaining that Chinese
manufacturers are sidestepping duties imposed in 2012 by
shifting production of the cells used to make their panels to
Taiwan and continuing to flood the U.S. market with cheap
The new complaint seeks to close that loophole by extending
import duties to also cover panels made with parts from Taiwan.
In a preliminary determination, the Commerce department
imposed duties of 35.21 percent on imports of panels and other
products made by Wuxi Suntech Power and five other
affiliated companies, 18.56 percent on imports of Trina Solar
and 26.89 percent on imports from other Chinese
China retaliated against the original U.S. duties by
introducing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of
U.S. polysilicon, the key raw material in solar cells, and has
accused the United States of trying to curb Chinese imports.
In the United States, the complaint has pitted SolarWorld
Industries America, which makes crystalline silicon solar panels
at its factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, against U.S. solar
companies that mainly focus on installation and who say imposing
import duties will only push up the cost of solar power.
"The ruling is a major setback for the entire U.S. solar
industry because it will immediately increase the price of solar
power and cost American jobs in one of fastest-growing sectors
of the U.S. economy," said the Coalition for Affordable Solar
The Solar Energy Industries Association said SolarWorld and
Chinese manufacturers should try to settle the dispute before
the industry was hurt.
But SolarWorld said it is not fair that Chinese solar
producers benefit from government aid from their own country,
including discounted loans and free utilities, making it hard
for U.S. firms to compete.
"This is a strong win for SolarWorld and the domestic solar
manufacturing industry," said lawyer Tim Brightbill, from
Wiley Rein LLP, representing SolarWorld.
Both the U.S Department of Commerce and the International
Trade Commission (ITC) have to issue final rulings in favor of
SolarWorld before the duties are finalized.
In 2013, Chinese imports of the crystalline silicon
photovoltaic cells covered in the complaint, which typically
form the basic element of solar panels and modules, were valued
at an estimated $1.5 billion, the Commerce Department said.
U.S. solar installations were worth more than $13 billion in
2013, according to research firm GTM. About half the solar
equipment installed in the United States last year was made in
China. In the fast-growing rooftop solar market, that figure was
The value of imports of solar products from China fell by
almost a third from 2012 to 2013, while imports from Taiwan rose
more than 40 percent, although from a much smaller base,
according to ITC data.
The SolarWorld petition includes a complaint that companies
from both China and Taiwan sold solar products in the United
States below cost. A preliminary decision on the anti-dumping
section of the case is due by July 25. The complaint covers
panels assembled in China from Taiwanese inputs or third-country
cells made from Chinese inputs.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard