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Asia Report: Decision on Trade Dispute Looming

The solar trade dispute between China and the United States is expected to come to a head this month, albeit a few weeks later than expected.

The U.S. Department of Commerce is now expected to issue its preliminary countervailing duty determination on March 19, about two weeks later than expected. The decision is expected to come down as many solar players meet up in San Jose, Calif., for the PV America West conference and exhibition March 19-21. (If you remember, the original trade complaint was filed in October as the solar community descended upon the Dallas Convention Center for Solar Power International.)

The news also comes as both sides continue to arm the solar community with new data ahead of the ruling. Last week, the SolarWorld-led Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing released a report that found that America’s recent solar trade surplus with China is now running at a deficit.

Meanwhile, others in the industry are pointing to a Customs and Border Protection’s Port Import Export Reporting Services (PIERS) report they say shows that America’s surge of imports during the fourth quarter of 2011 was because of the scheduled end of the Section 1603 Treasury Department grant. According to the agency’s findings, many manufacturers with operations outside of China sent an increasing number of panels into the U.S. between the third and fourth quarters. This is an important aspect because the DOC will be working to determine whether Chinese imports surged to get ahead of potential new tariffs. If so, duties could be imposed retroactively. However, the end of the 1603 program could make it difficult for the DOC to determine that the tariffs were the cause of the surge.

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