Commerce Department to open China solar probe
By Erik Siemers
SolarWorld's Gordon Brinser, shown here with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and and Sen. Ron Wyden, has been the front man in a trade dispute with China over artificially cheap solar panels.
The U.S. Department of Commerce on Wednesday said it would open an investigation into whether it will impose tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports following claims by U.S. manufacturers that China has been dumping low-cost, subsidized panels into the U.S. market.
The news prompted applause from the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, a group of U.S. solar panel manufacturers led by Hillsboro-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc. that filed the initial trade complaint against China last month.
“With today’s announcement, the Commerce Department is beginning its first investigation into a renewable energy industry and one of the largest investigations of Chinese trade practices,” Tim Brightbill, a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Wiley Rein LLP and lead counsel for the coalition, said in a news release.
The coalition claims that China’s state-sponsored solar industry has flooded the U.S. market with subsidized panels, giving them an unfair advantage. It estimates that the Chinese government provided $30 billion in subsidies to its home-grown manufacturers last year, including $7 billion alone to Suntech.
Chinese exports into the U.S. in July alone exceeded exports from all of 2010, the group said. It wants the federal government to make a determination of “critical circumstances” that would require import duties be imposed on imported Chiense panels to offset any improper trade tactics. They want tariffs to be applied retroactively for three months.
“We are pleased that the facts have begun to speak for themselves,” Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., said in a news release.
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