On December 2, 2011, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) voted 6-0 that there was a reasonable indication that the U.S. solar panel and cells industry has been injured or is threatened with injury by imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules from China.  This ruling stems from an October 18, 2011 complaint by SolarWorld Industries America Inc. (See October 24, 2011 edition of the WER).

Pursuant to this ruling, the Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) will continue its ongoing investigation and determine whether Chinese producers are selling at less than fair value in the U.S. (dumping) or are subsidized by the Chinese government, and will determine antidumping and countervailing duty margins for these producers.  Commerce has already selected the companies it will investigate in the countervailing duty case – Trina Solar and Suntech.  Commerce’s respondent selection in the anti-dumping case is expected shortly.  A preliminary decision on countervailing duties could come as early as January 2012, although Commerce can delay a decision until March if it needs more time to complete its investigation.  The antidumping duty preliminary determination is currently scheduled for March 27, 2012, but that decision can also be extended. 

Once Commerce makes its determination, the ITC will conduct a final investigation, which will involve another round of briefing and a hearing before the full Commission. If the ITC votes in the affirmative at this final stage, antidumping and countervailing duty orders will be imposed. The Commission’s affirmative preliminary vote is not unexpected – it is very rare for the Commission to vote in the negative at the preliminary stage as there are often many issues that remain unresolved which the Commission feels that it needs to investigate further in the final stage.