U.S. solar producers to host webinar to detail mechanics of trade remedy duties

Presentation will dispel marketplace myths, discuss potential future liability for solar importers and purchasers

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 2, 2012 – The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), comprised of more than 220 solar-industry employers of more than 18,000 U.S. workers, will offer a public webinar at 2 p.m. EST (11 a.m. PST) next Thursday, Aug. 9, to provide an overview of the ongoing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against Chinese producers of solar cells and panels and to highlight potential pitfalls for solar importers and purchasers.


To access the webinar, titled "Understanding the Mechanics of Import Duties from the Solar Trade Cases," industry participants and observers are invited to log onto http://goo.gl/oN9OZ, then use the password SOLAR. Participants are encouraged to log into the webinar five minutes early to ensure they can complete registration by the session start time.

Among other things, the webinar will highlight the various ways in which antidumping and anti-subsidy duty margins can increase unexpectedly, creating an "open-ended contingent liability" for importers of Chinese cells and panels. The webinar also will address the scope of the trade cases and the domestic industry's request that all Chinese crystalline silicon solar cells and panels be subject to duties. In particular, according to CASM, U.S. trade laws do not allow Chinese companies to escape duty liability by making minor alterations to their products or by completing or assembling them in a third country.

In addition, the webinar will discuss the role and enforcement powers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in collecting duties and in detecting possible duty evasion and circumvention activities. U.S. law provides civil and criminal penalties for fraud, negligence, and failure to exercise reasonable care related to the importation of products subject to duties, according to CASM. It also is illegal for a U.S. importer to be reimbursed by the seller for antidumping and anti-subsidy duties.

With CASM's support, SolarWorld Industries Americas Inc. filed its trade cases on Oct. 19, 2011. As a result, the Department of Commerce based its anti-dumping investigation on the prior two quarters, the second and third quarters of 2011. On May 27, 2012, Commerce published a preliminary determination that triggered collection of duties ranging between about 31 percent and 250 percent on the value of Chinese solar imports back to Feb. 25, 2012. Commerce will issue its final anti-dumping determination on Oct. 9, 2012.

However, if Commerce determines that Chinese import prices have fallen faster than production costs, then, for purposes of calculating an importer's final duty liability, Commerce will further increase the antidumping duties to account for China's unfair trade practices, according to CASM. Moreover, Commerce, in the future, will review all Chinese solar products imported since Feb. 25, 2012, and set future duty rates based on actual prices and costs in that period.

Similarly, anti-subsidy duties will increase between the preliminary and final determinations as a result of new illegal subsidies found by Commerce; as one example, it found that Suntech and Trina were not credit-worthy during periods when they received substantial loans, according to CASM. In addition, Commerce, in the future, is likely to investigate new subsidies, including Chinese government bailouts of its producers, CASM says.

Tim Brightbill, a partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm Wiley Rein, will be the key presenter in the webinar. Brightbill, who specializes in international trade law and policy, also teaches as adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

"The risk to importers and purchasers of Chinese solar products is much greater than meets the eye," Brightbill said. "We want to make sure that U.S. solar installers understand the legal implications, the potential liability and the financial consequences. In plain language, final duty liability for Chinese solar products imported remains a moving target, with final margins not determined for years after the imports actually occur."

"This is the first U.S. anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duty case ever filed in the renewable-energy sector, and so it is important for all parties to understand the law and the process involved," Brightbill said.

Led by SolarWorld, CASM contends the Chinese government has illegally underwritten its solar manufacturers' export drive into the U.S. market, enabling them to sell at illegally dumped prices to seize U.S. market share. As a result, CASM argues, at least 13 domestic producers have closed plants, withdrawn from the industry or otherwise laid off U.S. workers, and the Chinese industry's market share has soared to more than 50 percent in a matter of a few years. On a preliminary basis, Commerce also has issued anti-subsidy duties in CASM's cases; it will issue a final determination on those duties on Oct. 9.

The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, founded by seven companies that manufacture solar cells and panels in the United States, has more than 220 employers of more than 18,000 workers who have registered their support for CASM's case. More than 85 percent are downstream businesses, such as installers. The founding manufacturers have plants in nearly every U.S. region, including California and the Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and South. For details about CASM, go to www.americansolarmanufacturing.org; email media questions to media@americansolarmanufacturing.org; other questions or comments may be emailed to contact@americansolarmanufacturing.org.

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