The Chinese Viewpoint: What Solar Manufacturers Plan To Do about the US Trade Rulings

On December 16, 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced its final rulings in the antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations on imports of certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) products from mainland China and Taiwan. The DOC determined that imports of these products from mainland China were sold in the U.S. at dumping margins ranging from 26.71 percent to 165.04 percent and received countervailing subsidies ranging from 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent.

The DOC also determined that the crystalline silicon PV products from Taiwan were sold in the U.S. at dumping margins ranging from 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent. The investigation is a further move by the US in restricting China’s exports of solar PV products into the U.S. after the DOC imposed tariffs of 29.18 percent to 254.66 percent on Chinese solar PV cells in December 2012.

To address the challenges from the investigations and the resulting high tariffs, Chinese solar firms decided to relocate their manufacturing facilities and marketing channels to countries other than China and invest in acquiring foreign (non-Chinese) high-tech solar PV companies. In addition, they have shifted from low-cost production to proprietary technology-oriented acquisitions.

Industry analysts indicated that the “offshoring” of production will help Chinese solar firms circumvent the trade barriers and facilitate the growth of their own domestic solar PV sector, however, they need to secure their competence in the domestic market if they are to achieve sustainable and stable growth. Chinese solar firms turned the rulings into an opportunity to boost their development by taking advantage of the favorable policies put in place by the Chinese government. China is now the fastest growing solar PV market in the world.

The DOC’s final determination will impact China’s solar product export market, which is valued at US $2-3 billion. Several solar PV companies in Jiangsu province, China’s solar heartland, responded to the DOC’s final determination, as PV product exports of Jiangsu province’s ten largest solar manufacturers account for up to US$1.3 billion alone.

Changzhou, Jiangsu province-based photovoltaic solutions provider Trina Solar felt that the final determinations by the DOC are both wrong and unfair and was considering filing an appeal with the DOC. Solar panel manufacturer Yingli Solar said the final determinations doesn’t cover its solar cells, but will impact its PV product exports worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Phono Solar, a unit of Jiangsu Sumec Group, expects to be significantly affected by the determinations as a large portion of its solar products were being shipped to the U.S. Phono Solar marketing general manager Yuan Quan said the investigations that led to the trade barriers will not help the U.S. grow its own solar PV sector and will have a detrimental effect on U.S. consumers.

“Although Chinese solar PV makers are eager to expand into emerging markets in Southeast Asia, they regard the U.S. as their major export destination,” said PV expert Zhao Wenyu. “The lawsuit against DOC’s final determinations may help ease the pressure on Chinese PV exporters.”

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