commerce department

On Thursday, the Commerce Department announced it will impose strict tariffs on Chinese solar panels imports after SolarWorld had accused companies of setting their prices below the cost of production.

The agency announced the news in a statement via email.

Previous duties had been imposed at 4.73 percent for the receipt of unfair subsidies from the Chinese government. In a case brought by SolarWorld, along with other companies, they had been asking for levies greater than 100 percent after alleging Chinese solar panel makers had violated rules from the World Trade Organization by utilizing unfair cost advantages and selling panels in the United States.

SolarWorld asked for tariffs so they could compete against the Chinese exporters.

Suntech Power Holdings Co. (NYSE:STP) had been told to pay 31.22 percent while Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE:TSL) levies were 31.14 percent; additional companies will pay duties between 31.18 percent to 249.96 percent. They will go back 90 days and will be reviewed again at the end of the year.

In a statement reported by The Washington Post, SolarWorld’s president Gordon Brinser said, “The verdict is in. In addition to its preliminary finding that Chinese solar companies were on the receiving end of at least 10 WTO-illegal subsidies, Commerce has now confirmed that Chinese manufacturers are guilty of illegally dumping solar cells and panels in the U.S. market.”

While SolarWorld supported the decision, some critics were less happy. Makers of solar manufacturing equipment in the U.S. as well as firms that install the solar panels see rising solar costs from the import duties in the United States, a shrinking U.S. market and a negative impact on U.S. jobs.

Last year, about half of the solar panels installed in the United States had been made in China.

Jigar Shah, founder of Sun Edison and president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy said, “We will fight SolarWorld’s anti-consumer and anti-jobs effort.” In a recent study by the group, it noted that a 50 percent tariff would cut 14,000 U.S. jobs; Shah said a tariff at 31 percent would slash thousands of jobs.

On a positive note, Steve Ostrenga, chief executive of Helios Solar Works, said in a statement, according to The Washington Post, that the Commerce decision “underscores the importance of domestic manufacturing to the U.S. economy and will help determine whether the country will be a global competitor in clean technologies or outsource them China.”