Friday, January 13, 2012

Commerce Pushes Trade Decision Back to February

January 12, 2012
By Seth Masia
Reprint From SOLAR TODAY
The U.S. Department of Commerce on Dec. 29 announced a one-month delay in its decision on the SolarWorld petition for relief against competing Chinese silicon modules. The decision on the extent of economic harm to SolarWorld, originally due today, will now be announced on Feb. 13.
If Commerce finds significant harm, the U.S. International Trade Commission may impose countervailing tariffs, possibly retroactive to Oct. 19, 2011, when the petition was filed. In the meantime, SolarWorld's German parent company is reported to be preparing a parallel complaint in Europe.
SolarWorld leads a group of anonymous complainants, organized as the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), claiming to represent 150 companies and 11,000 workers. CASM claims that Chinese factories, subsidized with cheap loans from their government and generous terms on land, have been selling both cells and modules below their manufacturing cost, in order to drive domestic competition from the market — the classic definition of dumping.
American installers and developers, appalled at the prospect that steep tariffs will sharply increase the cost of solar installations, have responded by organizing the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE). They argue that 98 percent of American solar industry jobs are "downstream," involving installation and other nonmanufacturing jobs, and that a slowdown in installations would throw thousands out of work.
The precipitous drop in pricing for Chinese silicon modules has already forced a number of American solar manufacturers out of business, and depressed prices for all modules — thin film as well as silicon.
CASE sympathizers argue that low prices are essential to grow the world market for modules and reduce worldwide carbon emissions. Losing the European and North American manufacturing base would be an acceptable compromise.
CASM advocates argue that ceding manufacturing capacity to China risks giving that country a worldwide monopoly, and will lead eventually to higher prices anyway. They urge steps to protect healthy competition to keep Chinese suppliers honest.
Also at the end of December, a group of four American companies calling itself the Wind Tower Trade Coalition filed a dumping petition against Chinese manufacturers of wind turbine equipment. Trinity Towers, DMI, Broadwind and Katana Summit allege that Chinese companies are selling into the United States at prices below the cost of manufacturing and shipping.
Photo: Courtesy of NOAA.

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