More Solar Panels

More Solar Panels

June 11, 2014 | By Keith Martin in Washington, DC

More solar panels from China and Taiwan will be subject to US import duties, the US Department of Commerce said in early June.

The duties are “countervailing” duties of 18.56% for panels made by Trina Solar, 35.21% for Suntech panels and 35.21% for panels from other manufacturers. These are preliminary figures. The final duties will be settled in the fall.

Importers must begin posting cash deposits immediately to cover the duties. The Commerce Department is expected to announce by July 24 whether additional “anti-dumping” duties will also be imposed on the products.

SolarWorld, which filed the complaint that led to imposition of duties, says the Chinese solar panels in question are being dumped in the United States at 165.04% below their price in other markets. It says the dumping margin on the affected Taiwanese panels is 75.68%. This suggests that the additional, anti-dumping duties could be large.

The US already collects duties of 23.75% to 254.66% on imported Chinese solar cells. The new duties apply to a different set of products: Chinese and Taiwanese solar modules made with cells “completed or partially manufactured” outside the country where the modules are completed.

SolarWorld complains that the existing duties on Chinese solar cells are being circumvented by making solar panels in China using cells made in Taiwan. Reports suggest that as many as 70% of Chinese solar panel manufacturers that export panels to the United States use cells made in Taiwan. The existing duties do not cover Chinese modules made with non-Chinese cells.

Although the latest duties also apply to solar panels made in Taiwan, a questionnaire that was sent to solar panel manufacturers in China and Taiwan has led to speculation that solar modules manufactured and assembled in Taiwan without Chinese solar cells may be dropped from the case. The questionnaire asked manufacturers whether their cells are produced partly in China.

The US government is under pressure from US solar companies that use Chinese panels to try to work out a settlement with the Chinese government.

Duties must be paid by the US importer of record. The preliminary duties announced in early June are subject to adjustment later in the year. A final decision on the duties is not expected before mid-October at the earliest. US importers are retroactively liable for any difference plus interest if the final duties are higher than the preliminary amounts.

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

by Keith Martin