U.S. rejects bid by solar manufacturer group for tariffs on Asian imports

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An array of solar panels is seen in the desert near Victorville, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

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Nov 10 (Reuters) - U.S. trade officials on Wednesday quashed an effort by a group of domestic solar manufacturers to seek tariffs on panels imported from three South Asian nations, citing the group's request to keep its members anonymous.

The rejection was a victory for the largest U.S. solar trade body, which argued that tariffs would cripple a sector that is critical to meeting the Biden administration's goals to bolster clean energy and combat climate change. U.S. solar developers rely on cheap imports to make their projects competitive.

The manufacturing group asked the Commerce Department in August to investigate whether imports from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were unfair, arguing that Chinese companies had shifted production to those nations in recent years to avoid existing U.S. duties on solar cells and panels made in China.

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The group, which calls itself the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention, had argued that identifying its members publicly could expose them to retribution from Chinese industry.

In a Wednesday letter to an attorney for the group, an official with the U.S. Commerce Department's International Trade Administration said the companies' request to maintain confidentiality would prevent the agency from obtaining information it needed to evaluate the request.

The group's attorney, Timothy Brightbill, said it was reviewing the letter and had no additional comment.

The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association trade body praised the decision, saying it "provides a rush of certainty for companies to keep their investments moving, hire more workers and deploy more clean energy."

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Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Richard Pullin

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