Commerce backs up SolarWorld on import surge claim

SolarWorld's camp received backing from the U.S. Department of Commerce on its claims that cheap Chinese imports have surged in recent months.

SolarWorld's camp received backing from the U.S. Department of Commerce on its claims that cheap Chinese imports have surged in recent months.

The trade battle over Chinese imports of inexpensive solar panels got a little hotter Monday with the SolarWorld-led coalition of solar manufacturers celebrating a U.S. Department of Commerce finding of "critical circumstances," meaning that any duties applied by the U.S. will be charged retroactively.

The finding was positioned by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing as the Department of Commerce backing the coalition's claims of a surge of cheap imports in recent months. Trina Solar, one of the Chinese companies named by SolarWorld, disputed those findings last week.

At the same time that SolarWorld's group was touting the critical-circumstances ruling, the opposition group, called the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, released a report showing โ€” available for download here โ€” that a 100 percent tariff imposed on Chinese solar imports would cost the U.S. 50,000 jobs and put another 11,000 at risk.

"This analysis makes it clear that imposing even a 50 percent tariff, much less than SolarWorld has requested, would be devastating for American workers,โ€ said Jigar Shah, president of Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, in a press release touting the findings of the study.

Shah said SolarWorld is asking for tariffs of up to 250 percent.

Meanwhile, SolarWorld's camp said that the Department of Commerce's finding of critical circumstances means that any duties called for by the agency's ruling expected on March 2, would be applied retroactively to Dec. 3, 2011.

The U.S. International Trade Commission made a preliminary determination on Dec. 2 that sided with SolarWorld's claims that imports are harming the U.S. solar manufacturing industry.

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