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US could impose trade tariffs on PV from China

CASM has reached its goal – sort of. While the organization founded to push back imports of solar components from China to the US got what it wanted – import duties on products from China – the duties to be imposed are not quite as high as the organization wanted.

 - The US could be entering a trade war with China over solar components. Source: promo
The US could be entering a trade war with China over solar components. Source: promo

The US Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA) has "preliminarily determined that Chinese producers/exporters have received countervailable subsidies ranging from 2.90 [Suntech] to 4.73 percent [Trina]," with others coming in at 3.61 percent, as the ITA announced yesterday (PDF). Other investigations on antidumping are to be concluded two months from now, and the Department of Commerce is to make a final decision in June. If it follows the ITA's decision, the DoC's announcement in June could lead to the imposition of import duties in the amounts listed above starting in July.

CASM, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing spearheaded by SolarWorld Industries America Inc., is the main plaintiff in the case. While the subsidies were not found to be quite as great as CASM hoped for (the organization points to the 30 billion USD in subsidies estimated by the US Department of Energy in 2010), CASM states in its reaction to the ITA's ruling that "all subsidy programs have not been fully investigated, [so] the final subsidy margins could well be higher."

But not everyone in the US solar sector is pleased about the outcome. The day before the ITA announced its findings, Jigar Shah, president of CASE (an organization founded as a reaction to CASM), spoke of "hypocrisy" on the part of CASM and called on SolarWorld to make public the "millions of dollars it has received in supply-side government subsidies." CASE is mainly concerned that these protectionist efforts will simply raise the price of solar for Americans. In reacting to the ITA's decision, Shah found a silver lining in that the countervailing subsidies were not as high as CASM originally charged: "the Commerce Department did not find the Chinese government engaged in massive subsidization, as SolarWorld and CASM claim." (Craig Morris)

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