Vietnam files WTO complaint over US solar tariffs

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Hanoi joins China and South Korea in formally requesting compensation in its complaint over new U.S. safeguard measures on solar cell and module imports, which were announced in January. In late February, the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia also filed complaints, following similar moves by Singapore and the E.U.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) recommended quotas and tariffs on imports of crystalline silicon solar products in late October. However, the recommendations fell short of the measures requested by SolarWorld and Suniva under the Section 201 process. The recommendations stemmed from the ITC’s determination that there had been significant injury to the domestic PV industry from imports, as detailed last September.

Last week, Trump announced a 25% tariff on imported steel, as well as 10% import duties on incoming aluminum shipments. It is widely expected that the move will further drive up PV installation costs in the United States.

A number of companies have announced plans to launch solar production in Vietnam over the past year. Last July, for example, China’s GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI) and Vina Solar revealed that they had started jointly producing PV cells in Vietnam. Annual output at their undisclosed factory in the country is 600 MW, with about 330 MW of the total set aside for the production of passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) solar cells. And last month, Italy’s Ecoprogetti revealed that it would finish installing a 250 MW PV production line in the country.

Additionally First Solar is building two new PV factories in the nation to make its large-format Series 6 modules; however First Solar’s cadmium telluride thin film products are not subject to duties.

A number of companies have also announced plans to install large volumes of PV in Vietnam in recent weeks. In February, Singapore-based Sunseap revealed plans to install 168 MW of solar capacity in Ninh Thuan province. Last month, Japan’s Sharp also said it would build a 48 MW (DC) solar array in Thua Thien Hue province.

However, the country is still largely starting from scratch at this point. Cumulative nationwide PV installations were below 10 MW at the end of 2016, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).