Friday, March 9, 2012

Wisconsin solar manufacturer declares support for trade cases against China’s state-sponsored solar industry

MILWAUKEE, USA: A Wisconsin founding partner of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) publicly declared its participation in CASM and its strong support for the trade cases. Led by SolarWorld, the seven-company coalition initiated the US government’s investigation into China’s solar-industry trade practices to restore robust and fair industry competition and rekindle growth in American solar manufacturing and jobs.

“We have supported these trade cases from the beginning, and we are pleased to publicly declare that support,” said Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Helios Solar Works, headquarterd in Milwaukee. “Our country can’t afford to give up manufacturing jobs in growth industries to nations that engage in illegal and harmful trade practices.”

Helios is among a dozen US solar manufacturers that have been forced to downsize as a result of dumped and subsidized Chinese imports of solar cells and modules, according to CASM. But the company has fought to keep its production running and employees working. With 50 megawatts of annual capacity to manufacture solar panels, the company set up operations in a central Milwaukee industrial brown-field district that city leaders had designated for redevelopment and job growth.

“We believe the United States holds as much promise for manufacturing production and jobs as ever, especially in an industry with such potential to promote US energy security, sustainability and economic growth,” said Brent Brucker, GM of Helios. “First we have to enforce world trade laws so that companies can compete on business essentials like production costs and product performance. Then we can go back to filling up our plants, hiring and truly competing.”

CASM includes more than 150 US companies and nearly 15,000 workers that have joined together to stop what CASM characterizes as China’s state-sponsored solar industry from illegally subsidizing and dumping solar exports into the US market at the expense of American manufacturing jobs. Until now, six of the seven founding CASM members have remained anonymous, a status that the US Department of Commerce embraces to protect against business retaliation.

On Dec. 2, the US International Trade Commission unanimously issued a preliminary ruling that Chinese trade practices are harming the US domestic solar industry. The next step will be a preliminary determination by the US Department of Commerce on March 19 (announced March 20) whether to levy countervailing import duties to offset the effects of any illegal Chinese subsidies.

On Jan. 30, Commerce issued a preliminary ruling that Chinese importers have mounted a massive, evasive surge in Chinese imports ahead of possible import duties; the ruling means importers of record would have to post bonds or cash deposits on any tariffs not only on ensuing imports but also on imports back to late December.

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