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Canada Considering Retaliatory Duties against Chinese Solar Panel Imports

Posted February 05, 2015

On February 3, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) issued a ruling stating that “there is a reasonable indication that the dumping and subsidizing of photovoltaic modules and laminates from the People’s Republic of China have caused injury or are threatening to cause injury to the domestic industry.” A statement of reasons will be provided in the next two weeks.

The preliminary injury inquiry was made pursuant to the provisions of the Special Import Measures Act (SIMA) following complaints last year by Eclipsall Energy Corp., Heliene Inc., Silfab Ontario Ltd. and Solgate Inc. The Canadian manufacturers alleged they are losing sales and market share due to unfair foreign competition. The four panel makers are facing increased price competition since the elimination in 2013 of local-content rules which had previously required installers to purchase a significant percentage of their equipment from Ontario manufacturers. The province was compelled to drop its “feed-in tariff” program however when it was deemed to be an unfair trade barrier by the World Trade Organization following complaints by the European Union and Japan.    

Included in the CITT’s inquiry are PV panels consisting of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, laminates shipped or packaged with other components of photovoltaic modules, and thin-film photovoltaic products produced from amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). It excludes modules, laminates or thin-film products with a power output not exceeding 100 W.

The CBSA will now continue investigation into the case and, by March 5, 2015, will issue a preliminary determination. Should it be found that the goods in question are being dumped into Canada or unfairly subsidized, the matter will then be referred back to the CITT to make a final, detailed decision along with recommendations concerning the appropriate measures to be taken.   

The case is a good illustration of the double-edged and somewhat paradoxical nature of anti-dumping initiatives for while the imposition of stiff import duties would certainly benefit domestic panel makers they could conversely harm solar installers purchasing lower priced imported goods for their projects. Jared Donald, president of solar project developer Conergy Canada, said that he is worried about the potential for higher panel prices if additional import duties are put in place. Such a move, combined with the dramatic fall in the Canadian dollar in recent months which has already significantly increased costs, could have “a material impact on the viability of a lot of projects,” he told the Globe & Mail.