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CASE Companies Rail Against China "Trade War"

Members of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) railed against the impending "trade war," arguing that the steep price drop in imported Chinese photovoltaic modules was good for "98 percent" of U.S. solar industry jobs. "We are growing U.S. solar jobs and this trade case will undermine all the advances we have made in the U.S. solar industry," said one CASE member.

Holding a press conference Thursday morning in Washington after testimony was heard Wednesday by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) about the alleged dumping of Chinese modules in the United States, CASE member Kevin Lapidus, senior vice president for legal and government affairs at SunEdison, said, "This case is not good for U.S. policy. SolarWorld, a German company, is using the U.S. legal system to compensate for its own business mistakes. It has triggered a global trade war that has mushroomed beyond the United States." 

Hoyle Kim, general counsel for GT Advanced Technologies, went further in his rejection of the dumping charges as bad for the U.S. solar industry: "I strongly feel that this anti-dumping case is a horrible incidence in the legal process intended to protect American competitiveness. Trade barriers will not improve the solar industry and the tariff exercise is counter-productive. The timing of the situation is a pity because of the tremendous technological progress (that has been seen in this country) in increased efficiency and reduced costs."

Francine Sullivan, the vice president and legal counsel or REC Silicon, observed, "If the Commerce Department does uphold tariffs, it will increase the cost of solar in the United States. Protectionism is bad for the U.S. solar industry." She added that, "If solar growth is left on its own, the Chinese module capacity -- and more -- will be required; solar is a global market."

George Hershman, vice president of San Francisco-based Swinerton Renewable Energy, a utility-oriented developer, echoed the group sentiment, saying, "There are a number of solar projects on hold now, as this issue gets resolved. Uncertainty and time drive up costs, so we are fighting a race against lower cost solar."

Lapidus noted that while the European solar industry -- which also is considering Chinese dumping charges -- may be slowing, growth is rampant in several other parts of the world. "Many new countries are coming on line as solar markets, like Japan and Saudi Arabia, and regions like Southeast Asia and South America also are very good markets for solar."

The ITC will determine in early November whether U.S. manufacturers have been harmed by Chinese imports. If the ITC does determine injury has occurred, preliminary tariffs imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department in May, ranging from 30 percent to 250 percent, would continue. Commerce is expected to issue a final ruling by October 10. The dumping complaint was initiated by SolarWorld, and has been joined by several other U.S. manufacturers.

In retaliation, China in May filed a complaint against U.S. subsidies that affected over $7 billion worth of Chinese products

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Charles W. Thurston is a journalist who specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

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