SolarWorld shrugs off WTO ruling

SolarWorld USA has dismissed yesterday’s ruling by the World Trade Organization as essentially meaningless, saying it would only decrease the anti-subsidy tariffs put in place in 2012 on Chinese PV kit exported to the US by about 1%.

Tim Brightbill, a trade lawyer working for SolarWorld USA, claims that should the US government decide to appeal yesterday's ruling, the current 14%-15% tariff levels would remain in place until “at least” 2016.

If the US lost its appeal, the countervailing duties set in 2012 would drop "no more than about 1%".

Furthermore, Brightbill notes that the WTO ruling does not have any impact on the current trade cases underway within the US Commerce Department, which aim to close down a "loophole" whereby Chinese module makers employ Taiwanese cells to elude the 2012 tariffs.

“Despite some of the press coverage of the ruling, yesterday’s WTO decision upheld nearly all aspects of US subsidy law and practice,” says Brightbill, a partner at the law firm Wiley Rein.

“The vast majority of the subsidies that the US government found in SolarWorld’s original 2012 case were export subsidies, which were not impacted by the decision.”

“As a result, the current countervailing duties on solar panels from the trade case will remain largely intact.”

Nevertheless, many US-listed Chinese solar stocks rose strongly for the second day since the ruling – this time on a day when the broader markets were down.

Should a new round of US tariffs be put in place shutting down the Taiwanese cell loophole, many Chinese module suppliers are known to be contemplating a strategy that would see them simply revert to producing everything in China and paying the 2012 duties.

On Monday judges at the WTO ruled that the US had in some instances “acted inconsistently” with international trade laws in its 2012 decision.