WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Imports of Chinese solar cells and panels into the United States declined sharply in April, marking the second month of declines from record levels as duties to combat unfairly traded goods began to take effect in the marketplace, according to the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM). At the same time, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is carefully tracking all imports to detect and prevent any evasion of the recently imposed anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties.
These preliminary duties resulted from unfair-trade cases filed in October 2011 by SolarWorld Industries Americas Inc., the leader of CASM and the largest U.S. solar producer for more than 35 years. CASM, representing more than 210 employers of more than 17,000 workers, supports the cases to challenge dumping, or unfairly low pricing, of Chinese solar products imported into the United States as well as improper Chinese government subsidies for its solar-manufacturing industry. The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission have preliminarily concluded that Chinese imports are unfairly priced, unfairly subsidized, and materially injuring the U.S. industry.
Chinese solar imports totaled $70.7 million in April, down about 66 percent from $206 million in March and about 64 percent from $196 million in April 2011, according to Commerce’s import data. According to CASM, these significant declines reflect the market’s recognition of the costs, risks and uncertainties associated with importing Chinese solar. While final determinations of estimated import duty margins will be set in the fall, importers will not know the final amounts of duties they will owe for more than two years, after Commerce analyzes current pricing and subsidies. Final duty amounts can exceed amounts now being deposited, and importers can be required to pay the difference, with interest.
April was the first full month after the announcement of anti-subsidy duties on Chinese cells and panels. At $70.1 million in value, Chinese panels made up nearly all of April’s total, as Chinese cell imports fell to $632,000. Even with the decline in April, Chinese import levels for all of 2012 are still ahead of last year’s pace: For the first four months of this year, the total value of Chinese cell and panel imports reached $1.1 billion, up from $767 million for the same period of 2011. Commerce levied duties of up to 4.73 percent on Chinese cells and modules on March 26 and applied them retroactively to imports starting Dec. 27, 2011.
In a decision published May 25, 2012, Commerce also imposed much higher antidumping duties on all Chinese imports, ranging from 31 percent to 249.96 percent. Those duties also apply retroactively to all Chinese imports, starting Feb. 25. The 31 percent rate applies only to specifically named combinations of producers and exporters; companies not specifically listed by Commerce must pay duty deposits at the 249.96 percent rate.
While U.S. solar imports from China declined from March to April, imports from several other countries increased significantly, compared with their shipments in April 2011. These countries include Malaysia ($85.4 million, up 342 percent), Taiwan ($43.8 million, up 417 percent) and the Philippines ($42.3 million, up 471 percent).
Because these countries possess some legitimate solar production – including thin-film products, which are not subject to duties – they are attractive targets for illegal duty-evasion schemes. Given the risk that these countries will be used as conduits for transshipment and other forms of illegal duty evasion, CBP, which handles civil enforcement, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles criminal enforcement issues, are taking action to ensure that Chinese companies do not attempt to circumvent duties owed on their products.
The agencies, according to CASM, are prepared to take the following enforcement actions, among others:
- Impose penalties for fraud and gross and ordinary negligence for any false or fraudulent statements or omissions to CBP.
- Stop transshipment of products through third countries, which does not change the products’ country of origin.
- Impose additional duties on goods or containers marked with incorrect countries of origin.
- Require all importers and exporters of solar modules and panels to complete and maintain certifications regarding country of origin, supported by original records and documentation that can be requested at any time.
April 2012 import data also show that the vast majority of solar cell and panels imports come through a limited number of U.S. ports, which is expected to facilitate civil and criminal enforcement efforts. Among leading ports for these imports are Los Angeles-Long Beach, San Francisco, New York, San Diego, Chicago and Nogales, Ariz.
CASM was founded by seven companies that manufacture solar cells and panels in the United States. The founding manufacturers have plants in nearly every region in the United States, including the Northwest and California, the Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and South and support several thousand U.S. manufacturing jobs. For details about CASM, go to www.americansolarmanufacturing.org; email media questions to email@example.com; other questions or comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.