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SolarWorld cries foul on China

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 8:02 p.m.

American solar-energy manufacturers led by SolarWorld AG said they were forced to close plants and lay off workers because of unfair Chinese government policies, as they tried to convince regulators that the United States should continue to impose penalties on imports from the Asian nation.

Chinese exports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules have flooded the global market, leading to a price collapse, Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld's U.S. unit, said on Wednesday at an International Trade Commission hearing in Washington.

“China's massive government-funded solar capacity has caused this material injury,” Brinser said. “The import surge has been devastating to the U.S. industry.”

Representatives of Chinese manufacturers including Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Trina Solar Ltd. were scheduled to argue their case before the ITC later in the day.

The dispute has become a flashpoint in increasingly tense trade relations between China and the United States, the world's largest economies, as the November presidential election looms. President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have sparred over U.S. enforcement of China's adherence to global trade rules. Members of Congress, looking to protect jobs in their districts, have taken up the issue.

The Commerce Department on May 17 announced preliminary duties ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent on imports of Chinese-made solar cells, after determining that the products were sold in the United States below cost. The agency in March set separate tariffs as high as 4.73 percent on the goods to counter subsidies from China. The department's final ruling on anti-dumping and countervailing duties is scheduled for Oct. 10.

In order for the tariffs to be imposed, the ITC must determine that U.S. manufacturers have been harmed by imports from China. A final decision is scheduled for next month.

SolarWorld's assertion that it has been harmed by Chinese government policies is “simplistic and highly misleading,” said Richard Weiner, an attorney with Sidley Austin LLP representing Chinese manufacturers.

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