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Taiwan to back solar energy firms in dump probe

TAIPEI -- The Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT) said yesterday that the government will do its best to protect Taiwanese solar cell manufacturers involved in an anti-dumping investigation in the United States.

The bureau said the government will provide all necessary assistance to help the local solar energy sector take on the anti-dumping probe and make sure it is properly represented rather than have its case made by two Chinese solar panel manufacturers.

The U.S. Commerce Department and International Trade Commission (ITC) decided in January to launch the investigation based on a dumping petition filed by SolarWorld Industries America against Chinese and Taiwanese solar cell exporters.

Heavy anti-dumping duties were imposed on Chinese solar panels imported into the U.S. market, starting in October 2012, following an original complaint by SolarWorld.

But SolarWorld charged in a new complaint filed on Dec. 31, 2013, that Chinese firms were circumventing the anti-dumping duties by exporting solar modules using solar cells made in other countries, mainly Taiwan, which were not covered in the original ruling.

It asked that the anti dumping duties be extended to modules made of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells produced in either China or Taiwan, rather than just in China as had previously been the case.

Two Chinese solar energy product makers, Yingli Solar and Hanwha SolarOne, responded by filing a petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce to represent the Taiwanese firms involved in the case because they use solar cells from Taiwan in their products.

The move sparked an outcry in Taiwan's solar energy sector amid fears that if the U.S. were to allow the two Chinese companies to speak for Taiwanese manufacturers, local companies would have no chance to speak up in their own defense.

The International Trade Commission is hoping to issue a preliminary ruling by Feb. 14 on whether there is a reasonable indication that imports from China or Taiwan are hurting the U.S. solar industry.

If the commission finds in favor of SolarWorld, the Commerce Department will make preliminary determinations on subsidies in March and on dumping in June.

Chang Chun-fu, head of the BOFT, said his bureau will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Taiwan's representative office in the U.S. to formally express the government's opposition to the petition filed by the two Chinese solar energy firms.

Chang said that based on the opinions of lawyers in Washington, Taiwanese exporters are subjects of the investigation rather than the two Chinese companies, meaning that the two Chinese firms are not qualified to represent the Taiwanese firms involved in the case.

The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to make a decision on Feb. 21 on whether to allow the two Chinese firms to represent the Taiwanese suppliers.

Taiwan's representatives in Washington said they have been closely monitoring the situation, and Chang has promised to brief local solar cell exporters on progress in the case on a daily basis.

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