Imports of Chinese solar cells and panels into the U.S. declined sharply in April, marking the second month of declines from record levels as duties began to take effect in the marketplace, according to the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM).
At the same time, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is carefully tracking all imports to detect and prevent any evasion of the recently imposed anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties, the CASM adds. These preliminary duties, announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), resulted from unfair-trade cases filed in October 2011 by SolarWorld Industries Americas Inc., leader of the CASM.
Chinese solar imports totaled $70.7 million in April – down approximately 66% from $206 million in March and about 64% from $196 million in April 2011, according to DOC data cited by the CASM. April was the first full month after the announcement of anti-subsidy duties on Chinese cells and panels.
The CASM says these ‘significant declines’ reflect the market's recognition of the costs, risks and uncertainties associated with importing Chinese solar. Although final determinations of estimated import duty margins will be set in the fall, importers will not know the final amounts of duties they will owe for more than two years, after the DOC analyzes current pricing and subsidies.
Final duty amounts can exceed those now being deposited, and importers can be required to pay the difference, with interest.
Even with the decline in April, Chinese import levels for all of 2012 are still ahead of last year's pace, the CASM notes. For the first four months of this year, the total value of Chinese cell and panel imports reached $1.1 billion – up from $767 million for the same period in 2011.
While U.S. solar imports from China declined from March to April, imports from several other countries increased significantly, compared with their shipments in April 2011.Â These countries include Malaysia ($85.4 million – up 342%), Taiwan ($43.8 million – up 417%) and the Philippines ($42.3 million – up 471%).
Because these countries possess some legitimate solar production – including thin-film products, which are not subject to duties – they are attractive targets for what the CASM describes as ‘illegal duty-evasion schemes.’ Given the risk that these countries will be used as conduits for transshipment and other forms of duty evasion, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles criminal enforcement issues, are taking action to ensure that Chinese companies do not attempt to circumvent duties owed on their products.
The agencies may impose penalties, stop transshipments through third countries or impose additional duties on goods marked with incorrect countries of origin, among other measures, the CASM says.