Dec 2 (Reuters) – The United States will impose new duties on some major Chinese solar panel makers after a months-long investigation found they were trying to dodge tariffs by finishing their products in four Southeast Asian countries, trade officials said on Friday.
The preliminary decision was bad news for U.S. solar project developers that rely on cheap imports to fuel their growth, but fell short of their worst fears that Washington would impose new tariffs to cover all solar shipments from the region, instead of just those from specific companies.
U.S. President Joe Biden has set a goal to decarbonize the nation’s power sector – the source of around a quarter of national greenhouse gas emissions – by 2035, something that will require rapid deployment of new solar, wind and other clean energy projects.
The U.S. Commerce Department probe found that units of BYD Co Ltd (002594.SZ), Trina Solar Co Ltd (688599.SS), Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd (601012.SS) and Canadian Solar Inc (CSIQ.O) were circumventing existing tariffs on Chinese solar cells and panels that have been in place for a decade.
If finalized next year, the determination means those companies will be subject to duties on the products they make in Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam – countries that now account for about 80% of U.S. panel supplies.
Those companies and others will face the same duty rates the United States already assesses on their Chinese-made products, officials said, noting that most of those rates are below 35%. The duties will not kick in until June of 2024 thanks to a two- year waiver from Biden earlier this year.
The announcement was welcomed by Auxin Solar, a small U.S. solar panel maker that requested the Commerce investigation in February. The tiny U.S. solar manufacturing industry has often sought trade protections to stem the flow of cheap Asian goods that they argue make their products uncompetitive.
“Commerce’s investigations have largely validated and confirmed Auxin’s allegations of Chinese cheating,” Auxin Chief Executive Mamun Rashid said in a statement.
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