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U.S - China solar trade dispute heats up

Nov. 11, 2011 at 1:14 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- A coalition of U.S. solar manufacturers has called for anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against Chinese solar panel manufacturers.

Testifying before the International Trade Commission, two executives from SolarWorld Industries America Inc. -- representing the company and the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing -- said Chinese manufacturers are flooding the U.S. market with solar products.

That strategy, they said, along with massive subsidies from Beijing, has devastated U.S. solar manufacturers and jobs.

Their testimony Wednesday follows the coalition's petitions with the ITC and the U.S. Commerce Department last month, accusing Chinese manufacturers of illegally dumping silicon solar cells into the U.S. market.

Led by SolarWorld, the newly formed CASM includes six other manufacturers of crystalline silicon solar technology, who haven't been identified.

"The United States is already dependent on foreign sources for our fossil fuel needs … will the United States become dependent on China for its green energy needs?" SolarWorld President Gordon Brinser said in his testimony.

CASM says Chinese exports of solar cells and solar panels to the United States increased more than 350 percent from 2008 to 2010, and continues to rise. In July of this year, imports of Chinese crystalline silicon PV panels and modules exceeded the volume imported in all of 2010, a surge which CASM claims is largely responsible for a 40 percent decline in world prices over the past year.

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Wednesday it would investigate CASM's claims.

"We believe the Department of Commerce investigation will show that Chinese government and Chinese solar manufacturers are -- and have been -- engaged in illegal practices that threaten to decimate a vitally needed renewable energy industry," Brinser said.

"China's continued practice of scoffing at international and U.S. trade law and failing to meet requirements of the WTO, including reporting its vast array of subsidy programs, are extremely disruptive to business plans of countless employers who are dependent on Chinese imports."

Beijing retorted Thursday, saying Washington was attempting to blame Chinese exports for the United States' sluggish development and warned that the investigation would damage energy cooperation between the countries, state-run news agency Xinhua reports.

China accounts for three-fifths of the world's solar panel production, exporting 95 percent of what it manufactures.

The glut of Chinese solar panels to the United States has attributed to sharp drops in prices -- from $3.30 per watt of capacity in 2008, to $1.80 in January this year and now at $1-$1.20 per watt, The New York Times reports.

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