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4 southeast Asian nations violate trade rules on solar panels, Commerce Dept. says

Keith Plume of PayneCrest Electric Company checks that solar panels are lined up correctly at the Ameren O'Fallon Renewable Energy Center in O'Fallon, Missouri on September 18, 2014. Solar panels may be getting more expensive after the Commerce Department charged four countries with avoiding tariffs on modules that were mostly made in China. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Keith Plume of PayneCrest Electric Company checks that solar panels are lined up correctly at the Ameren O'Fallon Renewable Energy Center in O'Fallon, Missouri on September 18, 2014. Solar panels may be getting more expensive after the Commerce Department charged four countries with avoiding tariffs on modules that were mostly made in China. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The Commerce Department said on Friday that it made a final determination that four southeast Asian countries had violated U.S. trade rules by using Chinese-sourced materials without paying tariffs.

The department identified Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia as the violators. The countries make up nearly three-fourths of the solar models imported to the United States. The ruling now exposes solar modules coming out of those countries to additional duties, possibly starting in June 2024.

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"The final determination affirms the preliminary findings in most respects and underscores the importance of rigorously enforcing trade law," the Commerce Department said in a statement.

"Specifically, Commerce found that five companies were attempting to avoid the payment of U.S. duties by completing minor processing in third countries and that three companies were not circumventing. Commerce also found that certain unexamined companies were circumventing."

The Commerce Department said after "a thorough, transparent, and data-driven investigation" it found that five of the eight companies it probed were attempting to bypass U.S. duties by doing minor processing in one of the Southeast Asian countries before shipping to the United States.

The ruling could make solar panels more expensive at the time the Biden administration is making its big push to move faster to reach zero-greenhouse emissions. Since 1970, the average summer temperature in the United States has increased two degrees, while the winter average is up more than three degrees over the same period.

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