The solar PV module trade verdict is in and final, and the solar industry will have to adapt to the decision passed down in a 6-to-0 vote by the International Trade Commission (ITC).
The ITC voted to keep last month's tariff and scope decision as determined by the Department of Commerce. (We covered the preliminary ruling by the Department of Commerce last month as we've followed every twist of this international legal case.)
But this language in today's release from the ITC today would suggest that retroactive duties do not apply. Several Chinese manufacturers are due a large refund.
As a result of the Commission’s negative determinations regarding critical circumstances, the antidumping and countervailing duty orders concerning these imports will not apply retroactively to goods that entered the United States prior to the date of publication in the Federal Register of the Department of Commerce's affirmative preliminary determinations.
So -- tariffs on major Chinese solar manufacturers hold, as does the scope of the dispute. Retroactive duties are not applicable.
Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld America, the leader of the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), is attributed as saying:
“Today’s unanimous vote by the International Trade Commission confirms what has been apparent in the marketplace for the past two years -- Chinese manufacturers, with the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government, have attempted to game the international trading system in order to gain a virtual monopoly on solar cells and modules sales in the U.S. market. We have seen the results of this campaign in the marketplace, with more than a dozen companies either shutting down manufacturing facilities or significantly cutting back production and employment in the United States and a Chinese industry, led by LDK Solar and Suntech, having to increasingly turn to its national and provincial governments for help to survive. With this relief, combined with an aggressive domestic enforcement regime, there is hope that the United States can maintain a viable solar manufacturing base, conduct ongoing research and development and continue to make solar an increasingly viable part of the American renewable energy portfolio. On behalf of the membership of CASM, I want to thank the commissioners and the ITC staff for the hard work on this case.”
Yingli, the world's largest solar module maker in 2012, writes in a statement:
Today’s decision resulted in two rulings: the first found that the U.S. market has been “injured” due to the presence of imported Chinese cells and modules in the industry, and the second found that there are no applicable “critical circumstances”. As a result of the negative finding, Yingli Green Energy will not be held liable for the $13.7 million USD provision of duties that it has held on its balance sheet. In addition, solar modules assembled in China containing solar cells originating from a third country continue to be tariff-free.
“The threshold for determining injury to the U.S. market is incredibly low, and takes into account several factors, including policy changes, loss of jobs, sales results, et cetera. If only one of those factors is the presence of Chinese imports, then the ITC will make an affirmative injury determination, as it did today,” said Robert Petrina, Managing Director of Yingli Green Energy Americas. “We are relieved that this ruling marks the end of the U.S. trade investigations, and that we will be able to completely focus on serving our hard-working customers. This industry has grown tremendously over the past year, despite SolarWorld’s accusations, and we are grateful to the overwhelming majority of the market that has united behind us and supported affordable, clean energy.”
“Although today’s decision was partially favorable for Yingli, we are saddened to see the global ramifications of this case. We are in the midst of a global trade war now, and Europe will be defending itself vigorously in the footsteps of the U.S. decision,” said Mr. Liangsheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy. “We will always be appreciative to the U.S. solar industry that stood with us, and the other respondents. We remain hopeful that global free trade will prevail, and that affordable solar energy will soon be accessible to all.”
Suntech, the largest solar module supplier in the world in 2011, writes in a statement:
The continued growth of trade barriers represents a serious challenge to the U.S. solar industry, for American jobs, and for energy consumers globally. SolarWorld’s hypocritical campaign has forced the fast-growing American solar industry to foot the bill for SolarWorld’s competitive failures. Further damage can be prevented if governments engage in constructive dialogue to roll back protectionist barriers that limit our industry’s ability to compete against fossil fuels. As a U.S. manufacturer and global company, Suntech will continue to oppose unnecessary solar taxes and promote affordable solar energy everywhere."
As a global company with global supply chains and manufacturing in China, Japan, and the U.S., we remain committed to our U.S. customers and will continue to supply hundreds of megawatts of high-quality, affordable solar panels that will not be subject to these U.S.-China tariffs.
However, we are pleased with the ITC’s final decision to reject Commerce’s critical circumstances decision and remove the 90-day retroactivity of tariffs. It was apparent to everyone within the solar industry that heightened market demand in Q4 2011 was driven by the expiry of the 1603 cash grant program.
Jigar Shah of CASE, the consortium opposing the trade case, writes:
Today’s expected decision by the ITC marks the end of a distracting and politically-charged trade case between the U.S. and China regarding imports of solar cells. Although this ruling was anticipated given the ITC’s low threshold for injury determinations, we are nevertheless disappointed that they have left in place the Commerce Department’s tariffs on solar cell imports. Fortunately, the scope of the decision is unchanged and is limited to solar cells produced in China, thereby minimizing harm to the U.S. solar industry.
We will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the U.S. and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution. Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today’s interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition. Going forward, we must avoid a repeat of the SolarWorld saga, as the growth of the solar industry here, in Europe, and around the world is too important to be upended by one company’s self-serving crusade.
We are pleased that the ITC has determined that there were no critical circumstances, and thus no reason to apply the tariffs retroactively. This means that tariffs will not apply to modules made with Chinese cells that were imported into the U.S. during the period of the investigation. As several witnesses testified at the ITC’s hearing in October, those adversely affected by retroactivity would have been small- and medium-sized U.S. solar businesses that functioned as direct importers and were caught in the middle of SolarWorld’s protectionist case.
Now that both Commerce and the ITC have ruled, we will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the U.S. and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution. Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today’s interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition. Going forward, we must avoid a repeat of the SolarWorld saga, as the growth of the solar industry here, in Europe, and around the world is too important to be upended by one company’s self-serving crusade.
But the deal is done and settled. Except for the annual reviews.
Here are the tariff schedules:
Chart courtesy of CASE