SolarWorld leads charge against China trade practices

SolarWorld is leading the charge in a trade war with China over unfair practices in the solar industry.

SolarWorld is leading the charge in a trade war with China over unfair practices in the solar industry. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar)

SolarWorld declared war on China Tuesday, leading a coalition of solar cell and panel manufacturers in filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission claiming unfair practices on the part of Chinese solar manufacturers.

The complaint identifies 200 subsidies that the Chinese government provides its solar industry — including cut-rate raw materials such as aluminum and polysilicon, tax exemptions, massive below-market loans and discounts on land, power and water.

"Our focus here is clearly on the illegal subsidies," said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, the German company's Hillsboro-based U.S. headquarters. "These Chinese subsidies are similar to giving an athlete a bucket full of steroids."

Flanked by two Oregon-made solar panels at a press conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Brinser and Oregon's two Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley stated a clear case for action against China.

"I'm glad SolarWorld is initiating action," Wyden said. "If we don't take action China can be successful."

Wyden spoke about his China concerns on a visit to SolarWorld last week.

The complaint, which alleges dumping margins well in excess of 100 percent, is among the largest leveled against China — and the largest in renewable-energy industry history, according to Tim Brightbill, lawyer with the Washington, D.C.-based firm Wiley Rein LLP, who is representing what's being called the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing.

Citing figures including the increase in China's rapidly accelerating imports of solar panels into the U.S. — which grew than 300 percent from 2008 to 2010 — the coalition is requesting rapid action from the federal government including duties on Chinese imports.

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