US trade officials on Tuesday formally accused China of illegally subsidizing its domestic solar-energy industry, a preliminary move that could ultimately result in the US imposing duties on certain solar products from China.
The US International Trade Administration, a branch of the Commerce Department, said it determined that certain Chinese solar companies received government subsidies ranging from 4.9% to 4.73%.
The ITC decision is a preliminary step in a process that will ultimately determine if US solar-panel manufactures have been harmed economically by the huge number of low-priced Chinese solar panels entering the US. If the US eventually finalizes Tuesday's preliminary finding, it could impose countervailing duties on imports of Chinese solar products.
The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, a group of seven US solar-energy companies that filed the trade complaint again the Chinese solar industry last year, hailed the ITC's preliminary decision.
"Today's announcement affirms what US manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and WTO-illegal subsidies," said Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Wisconsin-based Helios Solar Works, one of the seven companies in the coalition.
"We appreciate the Commerce Department's hard work in bringing these subsidies to light, and we look forward to addressing all of China's unfair trade practices in the solar industry," Ostrenga added.
The Chinese solar companies named in the dispute — including Suntech, Trina Solar and Yingli Solar — have denied the allegations against them. Helena Kimball, head of marketing for Yingli Solar, has previously vowed to "mount a vigorous defense" against the charges.