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Datamyne Blog

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

SolarWorld Moves to Close Loophole in Anti-Dumping Orders

SolarWorld has petitioned the US International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce to close a loophole in year-old trade remedies – through which, it claims, Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers are dumping under-priced solar panels on the US market.

It was SolarWorld that first sought anti-dumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) investigations of Chinese exporters in 2011. The ensuing USITC investigations culminated in the imposition of final duties ranging from 30% to 250% in December 2012. (See US Solar Companies Seek Relief.) Once again, the multinational manufacturer of solar power systems represents the seven-member Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing. As before, the scope of the requested investigation would be limited to panels based on crystalline silicon photovoltaic – c-Si PV – technology.

The SolarWorld petition charges that Chinese and Taiwanese solar producers are exploiting a loophole in the AD/CVD orders that exempts Chinese solar modules that have been assembled from non-Chinese solar cells. Indeed, according to the petition, Chinese producers began sourcing solar cells from Taiwanese, South Korean and other manufacturers before preliminary duties were imposed (in March and May 2012).

In citing evidence of damage to the US domestic industry, the petition lists a string of US solar company failures, with Helios Solar’s September 2013 bankruptcy the most recent. You can review public versions of the filing documents at IA ACCESS (registration required; relevant case numbers: A-570-010, C-570-011, A-583-853).

The trade data seems to indicate that the tariffs had the intended effect on imports from China, at least initially, with the surge in volumes and drop in prices reversing direction in 2012. (We’ll follow up with second-half 2013 data when it’s released.)

US Imports of Solar Panels from China 2007-13For some context, take a look at the comparison below of US imports over six years from the top source countries as ranked by volume in 2007 versus the top sources as of 2012.

Note, in particular, Malaysia’s growing dominance as a production center as early leader Germany fades.

This is a result of another trend in global solar energy: the scaling back of subsidies for solar energy and weakened market demand in Europe. As First Solar, a maker of thin-film panels (and a top US importer of panels from Malaysia as identified in our bill-of-lading import data), explained when it cancelled plans for a factory in France and closed its production lines in Frankfurt, it could no longer make a business case for manufacturing solar products in Europe. By the end of 2012, First Solar’s installed manufacturing capacity consisted of four production lines in Perrysburg, Ohio, and 24 lines in Kulim, Malaysia.

Interestingly, First Solar kicked off 2013 by acquiring power project developer Solar Chile S.A. in its first significant move into the Latin American market.

US Solar Panel Imports from 2007's Top Ranked Sources

US Solar Panel Imports from 2012's Top Ranked Sources

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Date posted: January 9, 2014

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