Business, Economics and Jobs

Chinese solar panels hit with new US import duties


A giant solar panel on the outside of Chinese company Suntech Power Holdings Co.


Peter Parks

The US Commerce Department said today that it would impose new import duties on solar panels made in China, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The Commerce Department said that it had found that the Chinese government had unfairly given Chinese solar-panel manufacturers subsidies of 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent and therefore will charge tariffs of the same amount when the panels are imported into the US.

China supplies about half of the solar panels purchased in the US, while US panel-makers provide less than one-third, the New York Times reported.

The Commerce Department may impose additional tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports if it concludes that China is “dumping” its solar panels on the US market by selling them for less than their actual cost, the New York Times reported. Antidumping tariffs are typically higher than anti-subsidy tariffs, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Commerce Department is expected to make its decision by May, the New York Times reported.

Last October, the US unit of Germany-based SolarWorld AG and six other US firms asked the US government to look into whether Chinese solar-panel makers were receiving Chinese government subsidies, the Wall Street Journal reported. Chinese solar-panel companies like Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Trina Solar Ltd. denied they were engaging in unfair competition, and China’s Ministry of Commerce called the investigation an example of "protectionism," according to the Wall Street Journal.

More from GlobalPost: China strains Germany’s solar dominance

According to the New York Times:

While American manufacturers oppose the imports and filed the trade case against China, users of solar energy have benefited from low-cost Chinese solar panels. In fact, an American industry group composed of companies that sell and install solar panels said Tuesday they were pleased with the relatively small size of the tariffs, having braced for higher ones.

In 2011, Americans bought $2.65 billion worth of solar panels imported from China, up from $21.3 million in 2005, the New York Times reported.

More from GlobalPost: Burma: Ready for business?