The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a decision today to impose tariffs on some imported Chinese solar panels but not all.
The decision comes a year after Hillsboro-based SolarWorld and other American solar manufacturers filed a petition accusing Chinese companies of selling solar panels in the U.S. at unfairly low prices.
Earlier this year, Commerce decided the Chinese government was illegally subsidizing its solar manufacturing industry and fueling unfair trading practices.
To level the playing field, the agency set tariffs ranging from 18 percent to nearly 250 percent on imported Chinese panels.
But the tariffs confirmed today are limited to panels made from photovoltaic cells manufactured in China. Panels that are assembled in China using cells from other countries will not be subject to import taxes.
Jiger Shaw, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, represents companies that sell and install solar panels in the U.S.. He said the decision to limit tariffs will prevent a steep rise in prices for their customers.
“What this allows companies around the world to do is to source their cells from Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, India other markets that are not covered by this order, to avoid the tariffs,” he said.
SolarWorld had asked for tariffs that would cover all solar cells produced or assembled in China. In a news release today, the company reported it plans to seek separate action from the commerce department to expand the tariffs.
Both U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici released statements saying the tariffs won’t do enough to protect American manufacturers from cheap Chinese solar panels. Wyden said he’s ready to pursue other measures as well if the limited tariffs don’t work.
“I am glad the administration intends to act against cheating by Chinese solar producers, but fear today’s ruling leaves a loophole that will enable these companies to sidestep the impacts,” said Wyden. “That gap exempts panels from tariffs when only a small portion of panels is made outside of China.”