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U.S. ruling on solar equipment upsets China

BEIJING — China's government on Friday rejected a U.S. antidumping ruling against its makers of solar power equipment, and Chinese manufacturers warned possible higher tariffs might hurt efforts to promote clean energy.

The conflict has worsened U.S.-Chinese trade tensions. The two governments have pledged to cooperate in developing renewable energy but accuse each other of violating free-trade pledges by subsidizing their own manufacturers.

"The U.S. ruling is unfair, and the Chinese side expresses its extreme dissatisfaction," said a Commerce Ministry spokesman, Shen Danyang, in a statement.

Shen warned the ruling might harm clean energy cooperation but gave no indication how Beijing might respond. Some U.S. companies that oppose the trade inquiry have warned that China might retaliate against U.S. suppliers.

Thursday's preliminary ruling by the Commerce Department said Chinese producers sold solar cells and panels below fair price and hurt American producers. If that is upheld, tariffs averaging 31 percent could be imposed on Chinese solar-panel imports.

Three major Chinese manufacturers — Yingli Green Energy Holdings, Suntech Power Holdings and Trina Solar — rejected accusations that they were selling goods at improperly low prices.

Foreign competitors complain that Chinese manufacturers get improper government support in the form of low-cost access to land, bank loans and other resources. Beijing acknowledges giving research grants and tax breaks, but says those are in line with its free-trade commitments and practices by other governments.

"We will challenge with data all of those assumptions," said Trina's chief commercial officer, Mark Kingsley. He said China's subsidies are lower than those provided by Germany and some other countries.

Chinese producers also warned that higher U.S. tariffs might raise the cost of solar equipment and hamper efforts to promote renewable energy.

"Tariffs are disruptive and destructive for the entire solar industry," said Yingli's chairman, Miao Liangsheng.

The Commerce Department launched its investigation in November after complaints by a group of U.S. producers led by Oregon-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc., a unit of Germany's SolarWorld AG.

The complaints were amplified by the bankruptcy of solar panel maker Solyndra after the California-based company received a $528 million U.S. government loan. Solyndra cited Chinese competition as one reason behind its failure.

U.S. ruling on solar equipment upsets China 05/18/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 11:39pm]

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