SolarWorld, the largest U.S. producer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic products, filed antidumping and countervailing duty petitions at the International Trade Commission (“Commission”) and Commerce on October 19, 2011. SolarWorld’s petitions were supported by six other members of the newly formed Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing.

In an unusual move, SolarWorld was the only U.S. manufacturer identified publicly in these petitions. The unnamed companies are said to fear retaliation from essential Chinese suppliers and customers and, if they have facilities in China, the Chinese government. China’s Ministry of Foreign Commerce quickly responded to these petitions as overly protectionist and a threat to global economic recovery. China’s Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel maker, with manufacturing facilities in Goodyear, Arizona, stated that “a misguided solar trade conflict against China…could threaten the livelihood of the global solar ecosystem, particularly solar jobs in the U.S.” Meanwhile, SolarWorld, AG, the German parent of the SolarWorld, reports that it is considering filing similar petitions with the European authorities.

The petitions request that the government investigate imports of Chinese crystalline solar cell and panel imports. These cases exclude both: (1) thin-film products made from cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide, or amorphous silicon and (2) solar technology that is not photovoltaic, such as solar thermal products.

The petitions seek relief for the U.S. domestic producers injured by Chinese imports. The antidumping petition seeks duties to offset Chinese dumping alleged to exceed 100 percent. The countervailing duty petition alleges that China illegally subsidizes its solar industry by providing cash grants; discounted polysilicon and aluminum necessary for production of solar panels; heavily discounted land, power and water; multi-billion dollar preferential loans and directed credit; tax exemptions, incentives and rebates; and export grants and insurance. The countervailing duty petition also alleges that China’s currency undervaluation is an illegal subsidy.

The next step is for Commerce to decide whether the petitions are legally and factually sufficient and are adequately supported by the U.S. industry. A decision whether to initiate an investigation will be announced by November 9, unless Commerce extends the initiation period to more closely examine the U.S. industry’s support of the petitions. During such investigations, the Commission gathers information from the U.S. industry and Commerce gathers information from the foreign government and industry.