The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has officially voted to uphold the findings that Chinese and Taiwanese PV manufacturers have been dumping their products. The tariffs against PV imports will follow the Depart of Commerce’s (DOC) decision which was released on Dec. 2014: anti-dumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) will be imposed on Chinese PV imports and anti-dumping tariffs will be imposed on Taiwanese PV imports. This decision finally closed the latest and most publicized AD/CVD case involving China, America, and Taiwan.
In line with DOC’s ruling last December, Chinese PV modules will be severely punished with minimum tariff rates starting at 70% while the rates for Taiwanese PV manufacturers will range from 11.45% to 27.55%. However, the first-tier manufacturers in China are able to use the loophole provided by the favorable review and reduction of the 2012 tariff rates earlier this month. Under the revised rates of 17.5% for 2012, the vertically integrated Chinese firms could still sell in the US with a cost advantage.
“Trina Solar, ReneSola, and other major Chinese manufacturers have secured OEMs outside of China and Taiwan during the long investigation period,” said Corrine Lin, Analyst for EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce, “and BYD, the biggest winner of the 2012 review decision, have already released solar cell orders to second-tier OEMs in China.”
Lin further noted that the Chinese manufacturers with the same tariff rate advantage are poised to take over because they have taken account of the former market scenario and are again increasing their export shares to the US market. JA Solar, which is known for its high performance products of excellent quality, did not enjoy the same reduction of the 2012 tariff rates. However, JA Solar’s existing market share in the US is quite small compared with its large gain of market share in Japan. Hence, the trade dispute so far has little impact on its business operations.
The situation for solar cell companies in Taiwan is a lot worse in comparison. Recently, major Chinese manufacturers have been engaging in hard bargaining when it comes to their orders for Taiwan-made cells. Already at zero gross margin, Taiwanese firms will now face another round of price slashing for their products following ITC’s vote. “The Chinese, along with European and American PV manufacturers will still provide solar orders to Taiwanese companies,” said Lin, “but the prices of mainstream Taiwanese multi-Si cells will start to fall from US$ 0.31/watt to record lows, pulling down the prices of Taiwanese wafers as well.” Motech is included in this price projection despite having the furthest rate rollback among Taiwanese firms, at 11.45%. In response to the situation, Taiwanese manufacturers will opt to relocate their production lines as the quickest and most effective solution instead of devoting their efforts to develop new export markets. It is expected that those firms that have planned for relocation will do so immediately.
Lin also believed that while there is a chance for tariffs returning to zero when the US government reviews the tariff rates for 2016, Taiwanese solar cell makers may not be able to cope with the ruinous change brought by the newest USITC decision. EnergyTrend expects a few firms in the Taiwan’s PV industry are going to exit the market as they become uncompetitive. A straightforward wave of mergers is unlikely to happen because acquisitions of smaller second-tier firms do not offer any substantial benefits in the current market.