Monday, February 20, 2012

Duties on China Solar Would Kill Jobs, Report Says

A U.S. solar industry group fighting a rival coalition's request for steep import duties on Chinese-made solar cells and modules warned in a report on Monday that more than 60,000 U.S. jobs could be lost if such duties were imposed.

"We cannot allow one company's anti-China crusade to threaten the U.S. solar industry and tens of thousands of American jobs," said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE).

The CASE report, commissioned from The Brattle Group, an economics consulting firm, says the job losses would come in the solar industry and in the broader U.S. economy, even though there would be a gain in domestic solar manufacturing jobs.

CASE says it represents companies responsible for 97 percent to 98 percent of U.S. solar industry jobs, which it defines to include residential and commercial installation of solar panels as well as domestic manufacturing.

The group strongly opposes a request for anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese-made solar cells and panel filed by SolarWorld Industries America (SWVG.DE), the U.S. arm of one of Germany's largest solar manufacturer.

SolarWorld, along with six other U.S. solar energy companies who have remained anonymous, has asked the U.S. Commerce Department to impose duties of more than 100 percent on their Chinese competitors to offset alleged government subsidies and unfair pricing practices.

The department had been expected to announce preliminary countervailing duties in the case on February 14, when China's likely next leader, Vice President Xi Jinping, meets with President Barack Obama at the White House.

But a Commerce Department official said on Monday the initial ruling has been delayed until March 5.

U.S. imports of the solar energy products from China have soared in recent years and were expected to exceed $2.4 billion in 2011, up from about $1.5 billion in 2010.

The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit education and research organization, estimated in August there were slightly more than 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry and forecast 24,000 new jobs would be added in the coming year

The Brattle Group study estimated a 50-percent tariff would shut out most imports from China, driving up prices for solar panels, pushing down demand, and resulting in 14,877 to 43,178 fewer U.S. jobs by 2014 than would be expected without duties.

A 100-percent tariff would completely block imports from China, threatening 16,917 to 49,589 jobs by 2014, it said.

In addition, Beijing's threat to retaliate by slapping its own duties on U.S. exports of polysilicon to China would put nearly 11,000 more U.S. jobs at risk, the study said.

Polysilicon is a key material used to make photovoltaic solar cells.


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