Battle lines drawn in new trade dispute with China
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Two solar industry groups have taken sides over the U.S. government’s investigation into import dumping activities by Chinese manufacturers of photovoltaic solar panels.
The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), a group of seven U.S. domestic solar panel manufacturers, has thrown its support behind the antidumping and countervailing duty cases initiated by Hillsboro, Ore.-based SolarWorld Industries Americas on Oct. 19. The group wants government-sponsored Chinese solar manufacturers to be blocked from dumping their products at below fair-market value on the U.S. market.
CASM’s membership has continued to grow. On Monday it announced that about 75 solar industry employers have registered their support for the organization through an associate membership status.
Ken Stadlin, president of Kenergy Solar in Millersville, Md., said the coalition “highlights the fact that China views trade as a zero-sum game where they win and their ‘partners’ lose.
“China is no longer a ‘developing’ nation,” he added. “They are a global economic superpower with an explicit national policy that denies trade partners fair access to their markets while they profit from the fair trade practices of the developed world.”
CASM noted that only one Chinese company employs more than a handful of U.S. workers for production; a small unit with annual capacity to do 50 megawatts of final panel assembly or about 2 percent of its estimated total capacity of 2.5 gigawatts. SolarWorld employs more than 1,000 workers producing crystalline silicon PV cells and modules from raw silicon to finished products. Its cell capacity is 500 megawatts.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), which was officially launched this week, contends that global competition has made solar energy more affordable in the United States. “SolarWorld’s action to block or dramatically curtail solar cell imports from China places that goal at risk,” it warned.
“Protectionism harms the future of solar energy in America and negatively impacts consumers, ratepayers, and over 100,000 American solar jobs,” CASE said. “We urge policymakers to find a resolution to this dispute that ensures the continued growth of the entire U.S. solar industry and encourages continued investment in solar energy.”
The U.S. International Trade Commission plans to hold public hearing related to the SolarWorld petition at its Washington headquarters on Nov. 8, with plans to make a final determination by Dec. 5. If the ITC determines that there is a reasonable indication that imports from China are materially injuring the domestic industry, the investigations will continue, and the Commerce Department will be scheduled to make its countervailing and antidumping preliminary determinations in January and March 2012, respectively.