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AD/CVD Round 2: Southeast Asian solar panel players will again be investigated for unfair practices

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) and the Dept. of Commerce today announced they will investigate claims made by the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee that silicon solar cells and panels made in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are still being dumped into the U.S. market at prices that make domestic producers unable to compete. The committee filed the antidumping/countervailing duty (AD/CVD) petition last month.

This will be the second AD/CVD investigation into the exporting practices of solar cell and panel manufacturers in Southeast Asia. In August 2023, the Commerce Dept. extended AD/CVD to Chinese solar manufacturers working in the four cited countries. The extended Chinese AD/CVD allows manufacturers that use non-Chinese wafers or at least four solar components (silver paste, aluminum frames, glass, backsheets, EVA sheets, junction boxes) made outside of China to be exempt from the AD/CVD orders. Chinese companies working in Southeast Asia have been able to adjust supply chains rather easily to stay exempt from the duties. This new investigation will look at the continued “unfair trade practices.”

When the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee first submitted its petition, First Solar, Mission Solar, Qcells and Convalt Energy were listed as committee members. Since then, Convalt has been removed as a committee member, although it is still a part of the Alliance, alongside Meyer Burger, REC Silicon and Swift Solar. The committee is represented by D.C. law firm Wiley Rein LLP.

Credit: NextEra Energy

Before the USITC made its decision to initiate another investigation, it accepted outside comment. Only three entities submitted official comments: developer NextEra Energy and panel manufacturers Canadian Solar and Illuminate USA (LONGi).

NextEra largely focused on the note that the committee members did not represent the domestic silicon manufacturing industry, due to First Solar making thin-film panels and Convalt not yet producing any product. This likely is why Convalt was removed from the list of committee members.

Canadian Solar singled out Qcells as “primarily a foreign producer” and “U.S. importer of subject merchandise” and not a representative of the domestic industry. Both Canadian Solar and Illuminate also stated that Qcells doesn’t produce cells and has to import product regardless of country of origin, therefore its claims are moot. While Qcells was founded in South Korea and manufactures in Malaysia, it is currently the largest silicon solar panel producer in the United States, with 5.1 GW of annual capacity and growing, and plans to manufacture domestic cells. Meanwhile, Canadian Solar and LONGi are two of the largest multinational manufacturers with locations in Southeast Asia, which the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee mentioned in its rebuttal comments.

The USITC heard testimony on the case on May 15. In addition to the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee, other participants included BYD, Canadian Solar, Illuminate, Trina Solar and the American Clean Power Association. The Alliance members mostly testified that the oversupply situation in the United States is hurting domestic manufacturing, while all other participants stated that because there is no domestic cell manufacturing, importing silicon cells from Southeast Asia is necessary.

Now that an investigation has been initiated, the USITC should reach a preliminary determination of material injury or threat of material injury within 45 days (likely mid-June), with a final determination expected in spring 2025. The Commerce Dept. will then determine the amount of subsidies and duties to impose.

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