US opens probe on China solar cells
US trade officials have opened investigations into imports of certain solar power products from the mainland and Taiwan.
The investigations were sparked by a complaint at the end of last year by the US unit of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld. The company at the time said it was seeking to close a loophole in a prior trade case that enabled mainland solar panel producers to evade duties by using cells manufactured in Taiwan.
The US Department of Commerce said on Thursday it initiated anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty investigations, which will assess whether the products are being sold in the United States below their fair value, or if their manufacturers receive inappropriate levels of foreign government subsidies.
The commerce department investigation and a parallel inquiry by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) could open the door to expanding duties on some imported solar panels.
In October 2012, the US set steep duties on billions of dollars of solar products from China but turned down pleas to expand the scope of its order to include panels made with non-mainland solar cells.
In response, many mainland module producers simply began sourcing cells from Taiwan.
The ITC is scheduled to make a preliminary ruling on whether there is a reasonable indication that imports from China or Taiwan materially injure, or threaten to injure, the local industry by February 14. A negative finding would stop the investigations.