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SolarWorld: China still trying to dominate solar market

Hillsboro manufacturer cites $11.2 billion government investment


A coalition of American solar manufacturers accused the Chinese government of continuing to try to illegally dominate the global market less than a week before the International Trade Commission is scheduled to issue its final decision on a complaint spearheaded by SolarWorld, the international manufacturer with a large plant in Hillsboro.

On Friday the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing issued a press release accusing the Chinese government of preparing to invest more than $11.2 billion to create a domestic market for its solar manufacturers.

The release based the charge on a Oct. 27 announcement in the People's Daily, the publication of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee. The release also said the Chinese government has recently invested directly in domestic manufacturers.

According to the release, many of China's solar manufacturers would otherwise go bankrupt from over-production intended to dominate the global market.

"The massive new intervention, combined with recent Chinese government decisions to take new direct and indirect ownership stakes in at least one top Chinese producer to prop up its foundering operations, demonstrates the Chinese government’s resolve to perpetuate damaging distortions in the world solar-technology market at any cost," CASM said in the release. "Left to contend with unfettered forces of supply and demand, the group said, many Chinese companies would be forced to curtail or close operations and lay off workers, just as more than two-dozen U.S. solar producers have had to do."

The release quoted Gordon Brinser, president of Hillsboro-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc., as saying, “We have no doubt — none — about our ability to compete with Chinese producers on fair footing. But we have said all along that U.S. solar manufacturers cannot compete with the Chinese government and, as a matter of basic trade law, should not be confronted with doing so. The Chinese government is now acting to further prop up its failing industry, adding insult to injury abroad. This ongoing government intrusion in the U.S. market is materially injuring advanced producers who are employing Americans.”

On Oct. 19, 2011, CASM backed SolarWorld in filing anti-subsidy and anti-dumping cases with the U.S. government against the Chinese solar-manufacturing industry. The U.S. Department of Commerce has recommended activate import duties ranging upwards from about 24 percent against Chinese imports of crystalline silicon solar technology. The ITC voted unanimously on Dec. 2, 2011, that Chinese government policies were illegally harming the domestic solar market.

The ITC is scheduled to take a final vote on Wednesday, Nov. 7. If the ITC upholds its earlier decision, the preliminary tariffs and duties imposed by the commerce department will become permanent and possibly increased.

SolarWorld, which is based in Germany, has filed similar trade complaint in Europe.

Ben Santarris, head of corporate communications and sustainability for SolarWorld America, says the global solar industry is in American and Europe turmoil because government-backed Chinese companies have been dumping solar cells below cost to dominate their market. Santarris says there is still a large inventory of Chinese products that do not respond to the normal supply and demand actions of the market place. According to Santarris, employment at the Hillsboro plant has already dipped below 1,000 through attrition.

"We are perhaps in the strongest position of any company in the United States and Europe to compete, but this is a very tough time for the industry," says Santarris.

CASM represents more than 225 U.S. employers of more than 18,000 American workers.



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