Com­merce im­poses small tar­iffs on so­lar pan­els made in China

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY MARCY GOR­DON

The Com­merce Depart­ment said Tues­day it is im­pos­ing new im­port du­ties on so­lar pan­els made in China be­cause of what it said were un­fair gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies, but stopped well short of rec­om­mend­ing the steep penal­ties sought by U.S. com­peti­tors.

The depart­ment said it has found on a pre­lim­i­nary ba­sis that Chi­nese so­lar-panel mak­ers have re­ceived gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies of 2.9 per­cent to 4.73 per­cent.

There­fore, the depart­ment said, tar­iffs in the same pro­por­tions will be charged on Chi­nese pan­els im­ported into the U.S., de­pend­ing on which com­pany makes them.

The amounts are con­sid­ered small, but the decision could ratchet up trade ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and China.

Sev­eral U.S. so­lar-panel mak­ers had asked the gov­ern­ment to im­pose steep tar­iffs on Chi­nese im­ports. They are strug­gling against stiff com­pe­ti­tion from China as well as weak­en­ing de­mand in Europe and other key mar­kets, just as Pres­i­dent Obama is work­ing to pro­mote re­new­able en­ergy.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment af­firms what U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ers have long known: Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers have re­ceived un­fair . . . sub­si­dies,” Steve Ostrenga, CEO of He­lios So­lar Works in Mil­wau­kee, Wis., said in a state­ment.

The com­pany is a mem­ber of a group called the Coali­tion for Amer­i­can So­lar Man­u­fac­tur­ing.

On the other side, some U.S. com­pa­nies ar­gue that low-priced Chi­nese im­ports have helped con­sumers and pro­mote rapid growth of the in­dus­try.

The new tar­iffs are low, mak­ing the Com­merce Depart­ment decision “a rel­a­tively pos­i­tive out­come for the U.S. so­lar in­dus­try and its 100,000 em­ploy­ees,” said Ji­gar Shah, pres­i­dent of the Coali­tion for Af­ford­able So­lar En­ergy (CASE). “For­tu­nately, this decision will not sig­nif­i­cantly raise so­lar prices in the United States.”

Mem­bers of CASE in­clude Cal­i­for­nia-based Sunedi­son, Re­cur­rent En­ergy, So­larcity and West­ing­house So­lar, as well as China-based Sun­tech Power Hold­ings Co.

Com­merce Depart­ment of­fi­cials said they were putting off un­til May 17 a decision on whether Chi­nese com­pa­nies are dump­ing the so­lar pan­els on world mar­kets, sell­ing them be­low cost.

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