CASM Makes Ballsy Move in PV Trade Dispute

The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) said it would seek duties on Chinese silicon PV manufacturers dating back to Nov. 15, 2011. The organization, led by SolarWorld Americas, alleged that Chinese PV manufacturers flooded the market in the waning months of last year in an attempt to thwart duties and other fees.

He move was bolstered by the International Trade Commission’s (ITC’s) preliminary finding and by Obama’s remarks during the State of the Union.

“The ITC made its unanimous determination on Dec. 2. So some of those shipments came in before that time and some just afterwards,” said Tim Brightbill, legal counsel for CASM and SolarWorld. The organization said that Wuxi Suntech Power Co. Ltd.‘s imports surged 76 percent in November, compared with October, and Trina Solar Energy Co. Ltd.‘s spiked 209 percent in the first half of December, compared with the first half of November 2011.

“Clearly there is an effort by Chinese manufacturers to bring in as much product as possible without regard to demand in order to beat the imposition of duties by the commerce department,” Brightbill said.

As such, CASM is requesting that any duties ultimately decided upon by the commerce department be extended back 90 days, according to Brightbill. He did not know how much the duties would be, since the commerce department has not made its determination.

“They’re in the process of calculating dumping margins and countervailing duty margins to offset the effects of the dumping of solar cells and panels, and the subsidies granted by the Chinese government,” he said.

The imposed duties could be significant.

“The retroactive duties could impose tens of millions or hundreds of millions of duties, but it’s too early to know without the calculations from the commerce department. They’re investigating more than 30 of China’s subsidy programs,” Brightbill said. Such a duty would be remedial to remove the benefit of selling below cost, in an attempt to level the playing field.

The announcement came a day after President Obama’s State of the Union speech in which he said he would take action against unfair trade practices.

“We’re certainly pleased that the President put such a an emphasis on American manufacturing and trade enforcement. That’s a positive in general for us, and for other companies and industries that face unfairly traded imports,” Brightbill said.

However, since the case is ongoing, Obama’s remarks and his plan for a Trade Enforcement Unit would not affect CASM’s case.

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