The U.S. Department of Commerce decided on September 29 not to dismiss a trio of petitions that seek to have antidumping tariffs imposed on solar equipment imports from three Asian nations. Instead, the Department asked the group of publicly unnamed companies to amend their petitions to provide more detail.
In a letter to lawyers who represent the companies, Abdelali Elouaradia, who directs the department’s antidumping operations, asked that the petitioners be named and that they have standing to initiate the petitions. The letter also asked lawyers to explain how the companies would face retaliation if they were identified. And it asked if any of the group had sales or production interests in Malaysia, Thailand, or Vietnam, the three countries named in the petitions, or whether they buy wafers, ingots, or other material from Chinese companies. The letter asked that names and details of items be provided.
The letter gave the petitioners until October 6 to reply. Commerce then would reset its review timetable by adding 45 days to review the amended petitions.
In a statement, Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said, the industry trade group was “disappointed that Commerce did not dismiss these meritless petitions outright.” She said that the detail and nature of the questions Commerce asked the anonymous petitioners “clearly indicates that the petitioners have produced a filing largely devoid of the information the department needs to assess whether to initiate this case.” She said that SEIA believe that “when and if the petitioners amend their original submission, it will become abundantly clear that they have no case for circumvention.”
In a separate statement, American Clean Power Association (ACP) CEO Heather Zichal said that her group believes the petitioners’ requests “will ultimately be denied since the case has no merit.” She said that ACP member companies have indicated they will have to stop or cancel solar projects currently under development if the investigation is initiated. “Moving ahead with this matter would cause grave damage to the solar sector in the United States and put the Biden administration’s economic and climate goals at risk.”
Lawyers for the petitioners said that Chinese producers subject to the existing AD/CVD duties have set up affiliated operations in the third countries and moved the end of the production process while “retaining as much of the subsidized supply chain, labor, R&D, and investment as possible in China.” It said this was done to avoid paying the required AD/CVD duties. “Nearly all the raw materials, R&D, and capital investment is still coming from China,” the law firm alleged. “These factories exist only to serve the U.S. market and to avoid AD/CVD duties. This is the very definition of circumvention.”
In mid-August, a trio of petitions filed by the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention asked the Commerce Department to impose antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders on a handful of producers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules that are imported from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In a September 27 news conference, SEIA said that the petitions should be dismissed on their merits. More broadly, the industry trade group said that the tariffs would cripple the U.S. solar industry and impact the country’s plans to tackle climate change. The group said that almost 80% of all solar modules are imported from the countries, which include Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
AD/CVD tariffs could mean the loss of as many as 45,000 solar energy workers by 2023.
“This is absolutely the biggest risk and issue for our company and the industry,” Hershman said during the press conference hosted by SEIA. Hershman chairs the trade group’s executive committee.
Justin Baca, SEIA’s vice president of markets and research, said that AD/CVD tariffs could mean the loss of as many as 45,000 solar energy workers by 2023.
SEIA has said that not enough capacity exists outside the three countries to meet growing domestic demand for solar. Markus Wilhelm, CEO of Strata Clean Energy, said the solar energy is dependent on a global supply chain and so is “vulnerable” to a possible trade disruption.
Lawyers for the petitioning companies disputed claims that supply chains are inadequate to continue supplying U.S. solar demand. “There is plenty of fairly traded, non-Chinese available capacity to meet U.S. solar demand from non-subject companies in those countries and in the rest of the world, in addition to new and increasing capacity from U.S. producers,” the Wiley Rein law firm said. It said that “Tier One” solar module manufacturing capacity remains available that either is non-Chineseor not subject to the circumvention inquiries. It estimated that capacity at 30 GW or more annually.
“Solar projects in the United States should not be reliant on unfair and illegal trade practices, whether it is dumped and subsidized Chinese pricing directly or the dumped and subsidized pricing of the Chinese-affiliated companies in the countries circumventing AD/CVD duties,” the firm said in a statement.
The publicly unnamed group of companies filed the petitions through the law firm Wiley Rein requesting that Commerce investigate what it said are “unfairly traded imports” from the three countries. The group said that circumvention of antidumping and duties on Chinese solar products has “hobbled the U.S. industry, eviscerated our supply chains, and put our clean energy future at risk.”
The group asked the Commerce Department to investigate the following companies:
- Malaysia: Jinko Solar Technology Sdn. Bhd.; LONGi (Kuching) Sdn. Bhd. and its affiliate Vina Cell Technology Company Limited and Vina Solar Technology Company Limited; JA Solar (Malaysia) Co., Ltd. or JA Solar Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.
- Thailand: Canadian Solar Manufacturing (Thailand) Co., Ltd.; Trina Solar Science & Technology (Thailand) Co., Ltd.; Talesun Solar Technologies Thailand or Talesun Technologies (Thailand) Co., Ltd.; Astroenergy Solar Thailand Co., Ltd
- Vietnam: Trina Solar (Vietnam) Science & Technology Co., Ltd.; Canadian Solar Manufacturing (Vietnam) Co., Ltd.; China Sunergy Co., Ltd. in Vietnam; Boviet Solar Technology (Vietnam) Co., Ltd. or Boviet Solar Technology Co., Ltd.; GCL System Integration Technology (Vietnam) Co. Ltd.; Vina Cell Technology Company Limited and Vina Solar Technology Company Limited; LONGi Green Energy Technology Co., Ltd.; JinkoSolar (Vietnam) Co., Ltd.
If Commerce launches an investigation, any duties would be retroactive to the start of the investigation, which is why companies are reporting an immediate effect on their business.
Hershman told reporters that the largest solar panel manufacturers have already said they will not deliver product for his company’s projects. “We are not able to issue purchase orders,” he said.
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