LOS ANGELES Jan 23 U.S. trade officials on
Thursday opened investigations into imports of certain solar
power products from China and Taiwan, a move that could have a
major impact on the nation's fast-growing solar market.
The investigations were sparked by a complaint at the end of
last year by the U.S. unit of German solar manufacturer
SolarWorld AG. The company at the time said it was
seeking to close a loophole in a prior trade case that enabled
Chinese solar panel producers to evade duties by using cells
manufactured in other countries, mainly Taiwan.
The U.S. Department of Commerce said it initiated
antidumping duty and countervailing duty investigations, which
will assess whether the products are being sold in the United
States below their fair value, or if their manufacturers receive
inappropriate levels of foreign government subsidies.
The Commerce Department investigation and a parallel inquiry
by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) could open the
door to expanding duties on some imported solar panels.
In October 2012, the U.S. set steep duties on billions of
dollars of solar products from China but turned down pleas to
expand the scope of its order to include Chinese panels made
with non-Chinese solar cells. In response, many Chinese module
producers simply began sourcing cells from Taiwan.
Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar
Energy, a coalition of U.S. solar companies who have benefited
from the low price of Chinese solar panels, said SolarWorld was
"looking to single-handedly kill U.S. solar jobs."
"Because of worldwide fair price competition, we have been
able to significantly lower the cost of installing solar across
the nation's residential and commercial rooftops - which, in
turn, has created more than 119,000 jobs to date," he said.
Phone messages seeking comment left at SolarWorld were not
immediately returned on Thursday.
SolarWorld has said it is acting on behalf of the U.S. solar
industry, including a group called the Coalition for American
Solar Manufacturing, which claims to represent more than 17,000
The ITC is scheduled to make a preliminary ruling on whether
there is a reasonable indication that imports from China or
Taiwan materially injure, or threaten to injure, the local
industry by Feb. 14. A negative finding would stop the
If the ITC determines that the imports could be hurting the
domestic industry, the Commerce department is scheduled to make
preliminary determinations about subsidies in March and dumping
The ITC must make a final decision before any duties are