China steps up trade battle over solar panels

Boosts duties on US, Korean polysilicon.

July 19, 2013   by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Duties of up to 57% are in response to dumping, or improperly low prices.

BEIJING — China has fired a new salvo in a global trade battle over solar panels by raising import duties on US- and Korean-made polysilicon used to manufacture them.

The Ministry of Commerce said the duties of up to 57% are in response to dumping, or selling at improperly low prices.

The US and the EU have imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made solar panels to offset what they say is billions of dollars of improper subsidies by Beijing to manufacturers.

China retaliated against Europe by launching a trade investigation of European wine that could lead to higher import duties.

Under the latest measures, duties will rise to 53.3 to 57% on US-made solar-grade polysilicon and 2.4% to 48.7% on polysilicon from South Korea, the ministry said.

“A preliminary investigation finds dumping of imports of solar-grade polysilicon products originating in the United States and South Korea caused substantial damage to China’s polysilicon industry,” said a ministry statement.

Beijing and Washington have promised to co-operate in developing solar power and other renewable energy but have accused each other of subsidizing their industries in violation of their free-trade pledges.

China launched its investigation of US polysilicon suppliers last year after Washington imposed anti-dumping tariffs of up to 250% on Chinese solar panels.

The EU announced duties averaging 47% on Chinese-made solar panels, cells and wafers in June but put off full implementation to August while the two sides try to negotiate a settlement.

The higher US and European duties are a blow to Chinese manufacturers that are struggling with excess production capacity and a price-cutting war.

China’s solar industry has grown rapidly over the past decade, encouraged by communist leaders who see renewable energy as a way to curb reliance on imported oil and gas and to generate higher-paid jobs.

In March, Suntech Power Holdings Ltd., a Chinese industry leader and one of the world’s biggest solar panel producers, was forced into bankruptcy court after it ran out of cash to

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