Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese solar-equipment makers said tariffs sought by U.S. competitors would make it harder to expand the use of renewable energy.
China, the U.S. and other countries are all encouraging use of alternative energy sources, driving costs down across the board, so it would be unfair to penalize China, Richard Weiner, an attorney for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products, told investigators with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington yesterday.
“This ill-advised attack is threatening the whole industry in the United States,” Weiner told the panel.
U.S. solar-equipment makers led by the U.S. unit of Bonn-based SolarWorld AG have asked the government to slap duties on more than $1 billion of Chinese imports. Solyndra LLC, a California maker of solar panels that received $535 million in U.S. loan guarantees, blamed cheap Chinese imports for its collapse in September.
China uses cash grants, preferential loans, discounts on raw materials, tax incentives and currency manipulation to boost exports of solar cells, the main device used in solar panels, SolarWorld attorneys and executives told the commission.
The panel is scheduled to vote on Dec. 2 on whether the U.S. industry may have been harmed and there is reason to proceed with an investigation, Catherine DeFilippo, the director of the ITC’s investigations said following testimony. The ITC will report the vote to the Commerce Department Dec. 5.
Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Trina Solar Ltd., two of the biggest China-based makers of crystalline silicon panels, argued against duties. China-based Yingli Green Energy Holding Co.’s U.S. unit, Canadian Solar Inc.’s U.S. unit and San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy also argued against the tariffs.
Adding tariffs would only increase the cost of solar panels, which would then be passed on to the consumer, Neil Ellis, an attorney for the Chinese businesses, told the investigators.
China’s rapid growth is only possible with support from the government as it seeks to run out U.S. competitors by selling products for less than cost, said Timothy Brightbill, an attorney for SolarWorld. Chinese modules made up 8 percent of the U.S. market in 2008 and about 50 percent this month, Brightbill said.
‘Even for China’
“Even for China, this volume increase is remarkable,” Brightbill told the panel. More than 1,700 U.S. jobs have been lost recently, he said.
China provided $30 billion in credit to its biggest solar manufacturers last year, about 20 times the amount provided by the U.S., Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan program, told a congressional panel Sept. 14. Silver resigned on Oct. 6.
“Without subsidies from the Chinese government and the dumping practices of its producers, the Chinese would not be able to flood the U.S. market with unfairly priced product,” Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America told the panel.
The United Steelworkers union has petitioned the Obama administration to investigate China’s aid to alternative-energy companies.
“The United States will do everything we can to defend our core interest and make sure our manufacturers are not discriminated against or put in to a competitive disadvantage because of another country’s industrial policy,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Nov. 7 in an interview. “All we ask, we want everybody to play by the rules.”
Kirk said many U.S. companies are conflicted about filing a complaint because they are manufacturing in China.
The trade petition follows one by the U.S. wind-energy industry that China forces manufacturers to make products there. Those charges prompted the U.S. to file a case with the World Trade Organization in December.
The solar complaint adds to trade disputes. The U.S. Senate last month passed a bill aimed at opening the way to impose duties to punish China for not revaluing its currency.
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