WASHINGTON - The United States on Friday set new import duties on solar products from China and Taiwan after the Commerce Department found that the solar panels and cells are being sold too cheaply on the US market.
Preliminary anti-dumping duties as high as 165.04 per cent for Chinese goods would come on top of anti-subsidy levies imposed last month, as the US arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG seeks to close a loophole allowing Chinese producers to sidestep duties imposed in 2012.
China's Trina Solar Ltd faces total import duties of nearly 30 per cent and Suntech Power nearly 50 per cent as a result of Friday's decision.
Taiwanese producers face anti-dumping duties of up to 44.18 per cent, with the highest rate applying to Motech Industries Inc, Commerce said. There will be no doubling-up of duties with those from the 2012 case.
The new duties, which must still be confirmed, are likely to inflame US-China tensions already exacerbated by recent accusations that Chinese military officers were cyber-spying on US companies involved in trade disputes, including SolarWorld.
SolarWorld said the new duties would average 47 per cent for most companies, compared with 31 per cent in the 2012 case.
The company, which makes crystalline silicon solar panels in Oregon, complained that Chinese manufacturers dodged those duties by shifting production of the cells used to make their panels to Taiwan.
"Today's actions should help the US solar manufacturing industry to expand and innovate," said SolarWorld Industries America President Mukesh Dulani. "We should not have to compete with dumped imports or the Chinese government."
But the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which represents mainly installers, said the duties would hinder the deployment of clean energy by raising the prices of solar products and hurting consumers. The solar industry has been battered over the last four years by a glut of products from China, falling prices and a withdrawal of consumer subsidies in Europe, which has pressured solar companies' margins and sparked a rash of trade cases.
India has slapped levies on panels from the United States and China. The European Union also has targeted Chinese panels and China has moved against imports of US polysilicon, solar's key raw material.
Meanwhile, the United States is challenging India's solar programme at the World Trade Organisation. The WTO found irregularities in the previous US-China anti-subsidy case. US imports of solar products from China were worth $1.5 billion in 2013, half the level of 2011, while imports from Taiwan more than doubled to $657 million over the period, according to Commerce data.
Commerce will make its final decision by Dec. 15. The US International Trade Commission is due to make a decision on whether the imports pose or threaten injury to US producers by Jan. 29.