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Trade Dispute Will Carry Forward: Chinese Solar Imports Could Face Retroactive Tariffs

Today the international trade coalition (ITC) announced its ruling on the trade dispute between U.S. and Chinese solar manufacturers. According to a press release issued by SolarWorld, the company that initiated the dispute and founded the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), the U.S. government has found there is adequate evidence of wrongdoing by Chinese solar manufacturers and will conduct a formal investigation into the matter.

The ITC reportedly “found adequate cause for concern over Chinese solar export practices to initiate an intensive, year-long investigation,” said SolarWorld.

SolarWorld and six other anonymous companies allege that Chinese solar manufacturers have set prices for their products in the U.S. artificially low, a practice known as dumping.  As evidence, CASM asserts federal trade data shows that Chinese exports into America in July 2011 alone exceeded those of all of 2010.  The group seeks a federal determination of “critical circumstances,” which would require that any import duties that could result of the lawsuit be retroactive for three months.

A ruling could come down as early as December. Should the ITC on December 5th find that Chinese exports have harmed the domestic industry, the first possible determination on “critical circumstances” could come as soon as Jan. 12, meaning importers of record could later be required to deposit estimated duties on imports back to this past Oct. 14, according to CASM.

Reverberations are expected throughout the solar energy industry.

A counter-group, The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) was launched yesterday.  During a press conference last evening CASE spokesperson Kevin Lapidus, Senior VP, Legal for SunEdison said that the trade complaint could not be more “ironic” in that it comes just as solar energy is about to hit grid parity in some high-solar markets. Grid parity is the point at which the cost of solar energy is equal to the cost of energy provided by fossil fuels.

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