The U.S. Commerce Department set anti-dumping duties ranging from 18.32 percent to 249.96 percent on solar-energy cells imported from China, reducing preliminary penalties imposed on Trina Solar Ltd. and raising them slightly on Suntech Power Holdings Co.
The duties, the result of a complaint brought by the American unit of Bonn-based SolarWorld AG, may worsen trade relations between the U.S. and China, the world’s largest economies. The countries have sparred over government support for clean energy as President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney each pledge tough action on China ahead of next month’s U.S. election.
“Commerce’s decision raises the industry’s chances of reclaiming equal footing,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, based in Hillsboro, Oregon. “Only fair competition can provide sustainable gains in technological efficiency, cost reduction and end-user pricing.”
The Commerce Department said in a statement today that it will impose duties of 18.32 percent on the value of Trina Solar imports after finding its goods were sold -- or “dumped” -- in the U.S. below cost. The department in May set 31.14 percent preliminary penalties on the company’s merchandise. Suntech, the world’s largest solar-power equipment maker, faces anti-dumping duties of 31.73 percent, compared with a rate of 31.22 percent set in May.
An additional 59 Chinese companies will be subject to an anti-dumping penalty of 25.96 percent, based on a determination by the Commerce Department of how much below cost they were selling their goods. All other Chinese producers will be subject to a 249.96 percent rate to deter dumping.
Separately, the Commerce Department set higher final anti-subsidy tariffs on Chinese producers in response to what the U.S. said is government support that violates trade rules. It set a rate of 15.97 percent on solar cells made by Trina, up from a preliminary rate of 4.73 percent imposed in March, and 14.78 for those made by Suntech, up from 2.9 percent.
An anti-subsidy tariff of 15.24 percent was imposed on solar goods from other Chinese exporters.
The U.S. International Trade Commission next month is scheduled to determine whether China’s policies have caused U.S. solar-energy manufacturers harm, a decision that will determine whether the Commerce Department’s duties stand.
“I am glad the administration intends to act against cheating by Chinese solar producers,” said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon and chairman of the Senate Finance subcommittee on trade, said in an e-mailed statement.
The decision exempts tariffs when a portion of panels is made outside of China, leaving a potential loophole, Wyden said.
“I will be monitoring the impact of this determination closely and will pursue additional measures if necessary to protect American manufacturers and workers,” he said.
Penalties on imports have split the U.S. solar industry, pitting a group of manufacturers led by SolarWorld against developers and installers of the goods, who benefit from lower-priced imports.
SolarWorld’s Brinser told the U.S. ITC on Oct. 3 that the Chinese government has provided unfair support for its domestic solar-manufacturing industry, leading to a price collapse that has caused U.S. plants to shut.
Opponents of the complaint including SunEdison LLC, a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc., say SolarWorld failed to adapt to a rapidly changing business climate, marked by a decline in U.S. government incentives and increased competition from other energy sources including natural gas.
“Trade litigation alone is not enough,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association in an e-mailed statement. “There is a need to build consensus on acceptable forms of government support for industry.”