US Duties Could Catch More Chinese Solar Panels

US Duties Could Catch More Chinese Solar Panels

February 01, 2014 | By Keith Martin in Washington, DC

More Chinese solar panels could become subject to US import duties

Duties could also be imposed on panels imported from Taiwan. The importers of record of affected products will have to post security for the estimated duties when importing the products once a preliminary determination is made by the US Department of Commerce that a duty should be imposed. Any such determination could come as early as late March.

Under US tariff law, if the foreign manufacturer reimburses its customer for the duty, then the reimbursement is itself collected as an additional duty.

The affected products are Chinese and Taiwanese solar modules made with cells “completed or partially manufactured” outside the country where the module is completed. The focus is on cells that use ingots or wafers manufactured in China or Taiwan or whose manufacture otherwise began in China or Taiwan.

The affected products do not include solar cells or modules that are already subject to US import duties. The US already collects countervailing and anti-dumping duties of 23.75% to 254.66% on imported Chinese solar cells. The affected products also do not include thin film.

The US subsidiary of German solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld petitioned the US government in late December to investigate whether duties should be imposed on the latest products. The company charges that Chinese solar panel manufacturers are circumventing the existing duties by using cells made in Taiwan. Reports suggest that as many as 70% of Chinese solar panel manufacturers that export panels to the US are using cells made in Taiwan. The existing duties do not cover Chinese modules made with non-Chinese cells.

SolarWorld says the affected products from China are being sold at 165.04% below their price in other markets. It says the dumping margin on the affected products from Taiwan is 75.68%.

The US International Trade Commission has until February 14 to decide whether sales of the products in the US are causing “material injury” to US competitors. The commission can take more time if needed.

If it finds a material injury, then the US Department of Commerce will have until March 28 to make a preliminary determination about any improper Chinese government subsidy to assist with the sales of the affected products in the US market. SolarWorld says there is at least a 2% subsidy by the Chinese — but not the Taiwanese — government. Commerce will have until June 11 to calculate the separate dumping margin on a preliminary basis. After the preliminary determinations, importers will have to start posting security.

A final decision whether to impose duties is not expected until October 16 at the earliest.

The Chinese government said in January that it has “serious concern” about the investigation and will “resolutely defend” its interests. China said in late January that imports of polysilicon from the United States will be subject to combined anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties of 59.1%.

by Keith Martin