China to file WTO complaint over Section 201 duties

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China’s Ministry of Commerce intends to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the 30% import tariffs imposed by the United States on imported solar products, including those from China, according to a Chinese government spokesman on Tuesday. However, on Wednesday morning no official complaint document from China had been published on the WTO website.

The Chinese government has asserted that the protection measures imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump at the beginning of this year under Section 201 do not comply with international WTO rules. The duties are also harming the interests of the Chinese economy, said the spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing.

In addition to protective measures against imported PV products, China claims the U.S. has provided support for the domestic production of components for renewable energies and solar PV. The country’s economy has thus gained an “unfair competitive advantage and damaged the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese renewable energy companies,” the spokesman said.

With the introduction of tariffs, the United States has “heavily distorted” the international PV market and “seriously damaged” China’s trade interests, they said. Therefore, the country now wants to reach a dispute settlement at the WTO. China called on the United States to take concrete action to reinstate WTO rules, the Ministry of Commerce spokesman said.

It is important to note that the global nature of these tariffs affects production in Southeast Asia, where many Chinese PV makers have set up factories to avoid previous rounds of anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

At the end of January, the United States decided to impose tariffs on nearly all imported PV modules and solar cells. This was preceded by a Section 201 petition from Suniva, which Solarworld Americas subsequently joined. Under the ruling, these duties will be gradually reduced over the next four years. Exceptions apply to some countries, and the United States is allowing the first 2.5 GW of cells to be imported without customs duties.

Since then, the trade conflict has deepened, particularly between the United States and China. For example, Trump has announced further tariffs on Chinese solar cells and modules, as well as inverters.

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