U.S. Commerce Department Adds Another Round of Duties to Chinese Solar Panels

by Henry Kaplan | Jul 28, 2014 |

(President Obama speaks in front of the solar panel array at Nellis Solar Power Plant in Nevada.)

Last week, the U.S. Commerce Department moved to place anti-dumping duties on imported Chinese solar panels. It’s the latest move in an ongoing effort by the federal government to keep American solar panel manufacturers competitive and to push back against what they say are artificially low prices subsidized by the Chinese government.

Back in June, the Commerce Department tried to impose a tariff on certain imported Chinese panels, although that tariff may not go into effect. Now, the future of these anti-dumping duties are not a sure thing either – Reuters reports that the Commerce Department won’t finalize this decision until December, and the International Trade Commission will look at it in January. The Wall Street Journal explains that last week’s actions were provisional, but could become permanent:

The Commerce Department said the companies dumped solar cells, panels and other equipment into the U.S. and levied provisional tariffs on the firms. Those tariffs will become permanent if the department confirms the initial finding this year and if a special U.S. trade commission finds the behavior hurt the U.S. industry.

China has unsurprisingly criticized the decision:

China's Ministry of Commerce, citing an official it didn't identify, said the U.S. ignored "facts and laws" related to the "rules of origin" for trade. The ministry reiterated earlier statements saying it was "strongly dissatisfied" with the measure and that the U.S. decision was an "abuse of trade remedies."

So the future that American solar panel manufacturers continues to be uncertain. But changes may be occurring in China as well – Bloomberg reports that an increase in Chinese solar projects and renewable energy encouragement from the Chinese government will raise the price of Chinese solar panels:

“Current prices have bottomed and will rebound later” as Chinese orders rise, said Xie Jian, president of JA Solar, the world’s third-biggest solar-panel maker by production capacity. “Demand will be quite positive” from August, Xie said.

The expected recovery in China, which accounts for more than 60 percent of global solar panel output, offers an early sign that manufacturers are succeeding in soaking up supply by building their own projects. The government’s push to promote developments closer to regions where electricity is needed most -- so-called distributed solar projects -- may also spur orders.

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