U.S. limits on solar imports 'protectionism'

Updated 2017-11-02 10:05:03 Global Times

Global PV sector maintaining sound growth: experts

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) on Tuesday recommended that the U.S. impose varying quota and tariff restrictions on solar products bought from abroad, according to a statement on its website.

Four officials from the commission gave three recommendations that range from a four-year quota system with receding tariff rates to adoption of import licenses.

Experts said it shows that the U.S. is taking an increasingly protectionist stance.

The U.S. has already imposed restrictions on aluminum imports and now it is turning to the photovoltaic (PV) industry amid a rising trend of protectionism, Chen Fengying, an expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Although the recommendations [from the USITC] are not aimed at China now, they will affect the Chinese PV makers who are strong competitive rivals for U.S. companies," Chen said.

In fact, China's solar sector has very low market share in the U.S., but such restrictions are not unexpected, she said.

In May 2017, Suniva and SolarWorld, two U.S. solar manufacturers, filed a petition with the USITC under Section 201 of the Trade Act requesting the imposition of tariffs on imported crystalline-silicon solar products and high minimum price floors for imported solar modules, said media reports.

In September, the USITC decided that the U.S. solar manufacturers were being harmed by increasing crystalline-silicon photovoltaic cell imports.

"The free circulation of solar products helps with reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and improves the global climate. Protecting free trade in this field is a shared responsibility for all countries and is in the common interests of all parties," Wang Hejun, a trade official with China's Ministry of Commerce, said in a statement posted on the ministry's website in September.

Andreas Liebheit, president of Shanghai-based Heraeus Photovoltaics, said that the U.S. Section 201 is disliked even by Americans. "In one or two years at most, it will be repealed," he told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Liebheit suggested that Chinese PV manufacturers should broaden their horizons and aim for other global markets.

"Paying more attention to other markets outside the U.S. and going out under the Belt and Road initiative could help reduce the risks and pressures faced by businesses due to market volatility," said Liebheit.

"The U.S. is absolutely a good market, but it is not the biggest one," Liebheit noted, adding that other markets including Japan and some rising markets like India and South America offer great growth potential for the PV industry.

There may be short-term volatility in the U.S. PV market, but there is still sound development momentum in the global PV industry, Liebheit said.

He predicted that more than 50 percent of the production capacity in China's PV sector will be exported abroad in about 10 years and that changes in a single overseas market will not be that important.

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