Loophole in trade decision seen as issue

Members of Oregon's Congressional delegation are are promising to close a loophole in a U.S. Commerce Department decision favoring SolarWorld over Chinese competitors.

The pledges came from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici following Wednesday's decision by the commerce department affirming its earlier decision in support of SolarWorld's international trade complaint against China. The decision finalized preliminary tariffs and duties to be imposed against Chinese-manufacturered solar cells.

SolarWorld, a German company with a large manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, charged the Chinese government was illegally subsidizing the country's solar cell manufacturers, allowing them to sell their products below cost in the U.S. for the purpose of monopolizing the market.

But the decision left open the possibility that Chinese companies could escape the tariffs and duties by having their solar cells assembled into panels in other countries.

“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. That gap exempts panels from tariffs when only a small portion of panels is made outside of China,” Wyden said in a prepared statement. “This decision leaves a lot more to do. As Chairman of the Finance subcommittee on Trade, I will be monitoring the impact of this determination closely and will pursue additional measures if necessary to protect American manufacturers and workers from Oregon and around the country from China’s unfair trade practices.”

“We know that on a level playing field, Oregon workers and businesses can compete with any company in the world," Merkley said in a prepared statement. However, if China continues to cheat and unfairly subsidize their solar manufacturers, the United States must take action to protect American jobs. Today, the Administration took action to enforce fair trade rules. However, I fear that the action does not go far enough in addressing the loophole allowing Chinese companies to duck the tariff by moving a small part of the operation overseas. We need to close that loophole and ensure that American workers and businesses are playing on a level field.”

 “Although I am pleased that the Department of Commerce upheld the tariffs on certain Chinese solar imports, I am concerned that this final determination does not go far enough to protect American workers from harmful trade practices,”Bonamici said in a prepared statement. “The American manufacturing sector is important here at home and now hundreds of Oregon workers are uncertain of their future. Prior to this final determination, my colleagues and I requested that the Department of Commerce consider the harm that would be done to these workers if the scope of the determination was not expanded. Today’s decision does not bring the stability that American workers and companies need and deserve.”

SolarWorld also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, which is expected to issue a decision on Nov. 7. The tariffs and duties cannot be imposed unless the ITC also agrees with the complaint, which is widely expected.

The commerce department announced tariffs of 36 percent on Suntech Power Holdings Co., the Chinese company that is the world's biggest maker of solar panels, 24 percent on China's Trina Solar, and 31 percent on many other Chinese companies. In announcing its decision, the department issued a statement which said, "Commerce determined that Chinese producers/exporters have sold solar cells in the United States at dumping margins ranging from 18.32 to 249.96 percent. Commerce also determined that Chinese producers/exporters have received countervailable subsidies of 14.78 to 15.97 percent."

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