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U.S.-China Solar Trade Case: GTM Research Reacts to Tariffs Levied Against Chinese Module Manufacturers

GTM Research analyst, Shyam Mehta comments on the affect the latest round of preliminary tariffs will have on industry dynamics.


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Print May 19, 2012, 07:44 (CEST)
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BOSTON, Mass. — 17 May 2012 — Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) levied a second round of preliminary tariffs against Chinese solar module imports in the ongoing trade war between U.S. solar manufacturers and their Chinese counterparts. The following are the anti-dumping tariffs handed down this afternoon:

Suntech: 31.22 percent
Trina: 31.14 percent
Everyone else: 31.18 percent

These anti-dumping tariffs will be compounded by the countervailing duties that the DOC levied on March 20. The countervailing duties are listed below:

Suntech: 2.90 percent
Trina: 4.73 percent
Everyone else: 3.59 percent
The following is a series of comments from GTM Research’s Senior Analyst, Shyam Mehta on how the tariffs will affect Chinese suppliers in the U.S.

“While the margins are not as high as those seen in many previous U.S.-China antidumping cases (electrical blankets, steel grating), they are certainly much higher than Chinese manufacturers would have hoped for,” said Mehta. “Stacked onto the margins for countervailing duties, they amount to levels of 35-36%, which is significant.”

“Keep in mind that this is a preliminary decision. We expect Chinese manufacturers and CASE representatives to contest the findings in days ahead.”

“The margins were obviously driven in part by the Department of Commerce’s choice of the ‘proxy economy’ to estimate costs, as China is considered a ‘non-market economy’.”

“At these margins, China-based manufacturers would certainly have to raise U.S. prices to turn a profit. It is not feasible for them to maintain prices at tariff-free levels and still be profitable. In the short-term, this is likely to lead to module price increases in the U.S. which would serve to dampen demand and installation growth. If the Chinese were to absorb the tariff, it would place their costs close to parity with many U.S.-based suppliers.”

“However, Chinese firms are hardly likely to stand still. Broadly speaking, they have two strategies: set up cell manufacturing outside China, or use the tolling services of Taiwan-based suppliers to turn wafers into cells there, and then assemble the modules in China. Both strategies would allow the Chinese to bypass import tariffs. We estimate that tolling cells to Taiwanese firms would increase Chinese costs by 6-12%, which is meaningful but manageable.”

“Given this, we do expect that the decision will result in at least incremental investment in domestic manufacturing by Chinese firms. However, there are other, lower-cost manufacturing locations that these firms could set up manufacturing in, such as Mexico and Taiwan, for example that would still allow them to price their modules below that of U.S.-based suppliers. Therefore, we see the impact of this decision on U.S. manufacturing as positive, but spurring limited investment in the future and likely only temporary relief for existing U.S.-based suppliers.”

For further reading on the trade case from GTM Research and Greentech Media, visit


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Nicholas Rinaldi
Research Marketing Manager
GTM Research
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The Soft Grid 2012
August 14–15
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