A U.S. federal trade panel determined Friday that the U.S. solar industry was materially injured by imports of solar cells from China.
All the six commissioners of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) voted in the affirmative in the case, which was filed by a group of U.S. photovoltaic (PV) companies.
These companies alleged that Chinese PV products were subsidized by the Chinese government and sold in the U.S. market at less than fair value.
The USITC's move cleared the way for the U.S. Commerce Department to continue anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations on imports of crystalline silicon PV cells and modules from China.
The department initiated AD and CVD investigations of imports of solar cells from China on Nov. 8 and intended to impose duties of up to 249.96 percent.
The U.S. government is expected to make its preliminary CVD determination and preliminary AD duty determination respectively in January and March next year.
The United States imported nearly 1.2 billion U.S. dollars' worth of solar cells from China in 2010, according to USITC data.
The U.S. companies' complaints about their Chinese rivals came after the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel maker that received a half-billion-dollar federal loan from the Obama administration. Competition from China was cited as a key reason.
However, some U.S. companies disputed the charges, arguing that Chinese imports helped consumers and promoted rapid growth of the industry and that the tension could spark a trade war with China and raise prices for the entire industry.
Trade tensions with China are especially sensitive at a time when the U.S. and other Western economies want to boost technology exports to revive economic growth and cut unemployment.
China and the United States are two of the world's biggest markets for solar, wind and other renewable energy technology. Both governments are encouraging their own suppliers in order to generate higher value added growth.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry has repeatedly urged the United States to abide by its commitment against protectionism and work together with China and other members of the international community to maintain a free, open and just international trade environment.