Washington, D.C., November 18, 2011 – The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), seven U.S. manufacturers of crystalline silicon solar cells and panels supported by over 140 U.S. companies and more than 10,000 employees, today called on a group of Chinese solar importers to explain a number of deceptions that CASM contends the importers’ news releases have trumpeted.
CASM contends that a news release issued by the Chinese importers on Nov. 15 cherry-picked quotations from a statement of industry trade association Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), inaccurately implying that the association has taken a position against the SolarWorld-led coalition’s trade case alleging illegal Chinese trading practices. In fact, SEMI has assumed a neutral position.
CASM embraces SEMI’s statement that the association “has long advocated for a strong, effective and enforceable rules-based international trading system that promotes free and open trade with all parties acting in line with their commitments. This allows companies to compete on the basis of quality, technology and service within a predictable system according to rules that governments have negotiated in bilateral, regional and multilateral settings.”
In that light, CASM fully endorses SEMI’s support for the right of CASM members, and employers in any U.S. industry, to avail themselves of U.S. and WTO trade laws to determine whether foreign producers are dumping and receiving unlawful subsidies. If Chinese producers are found to violate U.S. and WTO laws, the SEMI statement indicates it would make sense to support the findings of U.S. and international authorities and any remedies associated with them.
In another instance of the importers’ deception, an interview in The Oregonian newspaper suggested that backers of the Chinese importers improperly implied a recent study by the nonprofit Environment California on the state’s solar incentives supported the position of the importers, according to CASM. In response to a release from the importers on Nov. 14, the Portland newspaper reported on an interview with the California group’s leader:
“‘We do not have a position on any international trade issue,’ said Bernadette Del Chiaro, who directs the nonprofit’s clean-energy programs. She said that groups organizing against SolarWorld’s trade complaint mistakenly claimed she had taken a position opposing the company’s case.”
“We are eager to debate the Chinese importers on the facts of our petition,” said Ben Santarris, SolarWorld’s head of corporate communications and sustainability for the Americas. “However, when the importers deliberately mislead the public about nonprofit groups’ positions, you have to wonder whether anything they say can be taken with any degree of credulity.”
Moreover, in the importer group’s very first news release, it cited a so-called survey by PV Magazine showing 76 percent of respondents opposed the filing of the petition. The importers failed to mention, however, that the “survey” was a voluntary and arbitrary reader-interaction feature in which 140 web surfers answered the magazine’s “Question of the Week.”
“By almost any standard, to claim that 140 voluntary participants in a reader-interaction feature on a web site with 50,000 unique visitors a month somehow reflects industry or public opinion is patently reckless,” said Santarris. “In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association right now is featuring a nationally representative survey on its website that suggests a bipartisan, 82 percent majority of the public supports U.S. solar manufacturing. Maybe that’s why the importers are resorting to quoting informal reader features.”
The next step in the SolarWorld case will be a Dec. 2 vote by the U.S. International Trade Commission on whether subsidized Chinese exports have harmed the domestic industry. If it finds in favor of the CASM petition, the first possible determination on “critical circumstances” could come as soon as Jan. 12, meaning importers of record could later be required to deposit estimated duties on imports back to this past Oct. 14. The Commerce Department determined Nov. 9 that the petition had support from companies producing more than half of U.S. output and the case raised enough concern to warrant intensive federal investigation.
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The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing is made up of seven companies that manufacture solar cells and modules in the United States. These member companies have plants in nearly every region in the United States, including the Northwest and California, the Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and South and support several thousand U.S. manufacturing jobs. For details about CASM, go to www.americansolarmanufacturing.com; email media questions to firstname.lastname@example.org; other questions or comments may be emailed to email@example.com.
CONTACT: Lauren Simpson
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