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Commerce Department Opens Dumping Probe on China Solar Cells

The U.S. Commerce Department said it opened an anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation of solar cells from China, acting on a trade complaint brought by SolarWorld AG, according to an agency statement.

The U.S. unit of Bonn-based SolarWorld was among seven solar-equipment makers that filed the complaint last month, asking the Obama administration to impose duties on more than $1 billion of Chinese imports in compensation for what they called unfair state aid undercutting American competitors. The Commerce Department disclosed the investigation today in an e-mailed statement.

The U.S. International Trade Commission’s staff questioned representatives of SolarWorld and Chinese-based competitors yesterday to decide whether to proceed with its own investigation. The ITC would examine possible economic harm to SolarWorld from Chinese imports, while the Commerce Department determines the penalty for Chinese companies illegally dumping products.

“It is one step in a year-long process,” Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., said today in an interview. “Our concerns are significant enough to warrant an investigation.”

Dec. 2 Vote

The ITC 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.

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 yesterday.

Solyndra LLC, a California maker of solar panels that received $535 million in U.S. loan guarantees in 2009, blamed cheap Chinese imports for its collapse in September.

The Chinese companies said adding tariffs would only increase the cost of solar panels, which would then be passed on to the consumer.

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