Tariffs on solar panels 'will harm US industry'


A CHINESE industry group has hit out at a US decision to impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China.

On Tuesday, the United States Commerce Department said it had found that Chinese solar panel makers had received government subsidies of 2.9 to 4.73 percent. Therefore, import tariffs in the same proportions would be charged on Chinese panels, depending on the company making them.

The China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products said the ruling was unfair and in contravention of international trade laws.

"Chinese solar panel makers firmly believe that their commercial success resulted from fair competition rather than unfair trade practices and violations to WTO rules," it said.

The chamber warned that imposing more duties on Chinese solar panel products will undermine the development of the global solar panel market, and do more harm than good in the US.

Setting trade barriers on Chinese solar panel manufacturers will increase costs of the US solar power production and dampen the market, thus ruining the US government's plan to boost employment by expanding solar power, it said.

The restriction will only benefit SolarWorld, the solar panel company that led US complaints, but will postpone large-scale development of the US solar power industry by at least five years, the chamber said.

Chinese solar panel makers have received far less government support than their American and European competitors, and all Chinese government support is in line with WTO rules, it said.

Government subsidies are never the key competitive edge for Chinese solar panels, the chamber said. Their competitiveness lay in more advanced technologies, large-scale production, strong management and forward-looking strategies.

However, the US anti-subsidy tariffs were smaller than expected and triggered a rally among Chinese solar stocks, with Suntech Power Holdings, Trina Solar and Yingli Green Energy Holding each soaring more than 10 percent in New York. Some American industry executives had expected duty of up to 10 percent.

Xinhua news agency said the smaller than expected tariffs were the result of compromise, but the US had to do more to keep bilateral trade ties from derailing.

The ruling on tariffs comes ahead of one in May when the US commerce department is due to decide whether China is dumping panels at prices below cost.

SolarWorld has asked for 100 percent duty to counter alleged dumping, which the Chinese industry has denied.

Miao Liansheng, chairman and CEO of Yingli Green Energy, said: "The important thing to remember is that tariffs are bad for the entire solar industry. We will continue to support the US as an important solar market, and believe that global trade and fair competition will persevere."

Andrew Beebe, Suntech Power Holding's chief commercial officer, said: "Unilateral trade barriers, large or small, will further delay our transition away from fossil fuels at a time when the majority of Americans demand cleaner and more secure energy such as solar."


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