By Giles Parkinson and PV Magazine
The US has slapped even bigger tariffs on imported solar panels from China, raising the stakes of a trade war on environmental goods. This comes as Australia’s anti-dumping commission further delays a report on a complaint about the dumping of solar modules in Australia until March.
The US Department of Commerce overnight announced its final anti-dumping and anti-subsidy rates for PV products imported from China and Taiwan, increasing rates for Chinese PV makers to even more prohibitive levels.
The CVD rate for Trina Solar, the world’s largest PV module maker, went up substantially. The preliminary CVD rate set for Trina in June was only 18.56%, but this has increased to 49.79%. Meanwhile subsidy rates for Suntech fell, but the China-wide rate increased from 26.89% to 38.72%.
Australia faces similar rises. An action brought by small Adelaide-based manufacturer Tindo Solar is seeking a ruling on dumping by Chinese panel manufactures in Australia. Companies such as Trina, ET Solar, Renesolar, and Suntech are being investigated, but the report has been delayed because the commission is short-staffed and has had to move offices.
The renewable energy industry in Australia has warned that any move to impose tariffs could severely impact large scale solar projects in Australia, already brought to a standstill by the Abbott government’s attempts to slash the renewable energy target.
The issue has been complicated by the fact that China has imposed import tariffs on Australian thermal coal. Australia refused to include environmental produce in its recent free trade agreement in China, and also sought to have them removed from World Trade Organisation proposals.
Meanwhile, in the US, PV Tech reports that dumping duties on Chinese panels were also increased. While Trina’s increase was less than 1%, JinkoSolar and ReneSola’s rate went from 58.87% to 78.42%. 43 “listed” PV makers including Yingli, Canadian Solar and other market leaders saw their rates increase from 42.33% to 52.13%. The “China-wide” rate for unlisted companies and smaller PV makers remained a massive 165%.
As trade authorities consider that there is some duplication in the dumping and subsidy rates, like in the preliminary ruling these two will not be simply added together. The U.S. Department of Commerce was not able to provide final combined AD and CVD rates at press time.
“It’s a moot point, because nobody is going to pay these tariffs,” GTM Research VP Shayle Kann told pv magazine. “Basically, the outcome is either they ship all-China product into the U.S. and pay the 2012 tariffs, or they set up manufacturing outside China to avoid the tariffs.”
Additionally, the tariffs will apply under an expanded scope first proposed by trade authorities in October. Under this new scope, tariffs will be applied to modules made in China using cells from any third-party nation. However, it will still not apply to products made entirely in China, which were covered in the 2012 ruling.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese PV makers have received something of a reprieve. While Gintech will be paying nearly the same rate at 27.55%, Motech had its rate reduced by more than 2/3 to 11.45%, and all other Taiwanese PV makers have had their anti-dumping rates nearly halved to 19.5%.
However, this will be of little benefit to Taiwanese PV makers who are dependent upon Chinese PV module production, given that Chinese companies can pay lower duty rates with an all-China product. However, Taiwanese module makers will benefit from the lower duty rates. “They are the only ones who come out positively in this ruling,” notes Kann.
The final CVD and anti-dumping duties will not be approved until a ruling of the U.S. International Trade Commission on January 29th. If approved, a final order will be issued on February 5th.