Over the last few years, the global trading system has seen a multitude of trade disputes in several fora regarding certain solar products. These have concerned some of the world’s largest economies and trading partners, such as the European Union (EU), China, the US and India.

Some of these disputes, especially those between the US and China and India, have developed into full-fledged trade wars. Nevertheless, ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations regarding the liberalisation of trade in ‘green goods’ may serve as a silver lining for an industry which is suffering globally, and is subject to ever increasing trade disputes. This article provides brief overview of the key trade disputes in key jurisdictions in this field.

Trade defence investigations conducted by national investigating authorities

United States. In late 2011, SolarWorld Industries America Inc. and the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing lodged two separate complaints that solar cells originating in China were being dumped and subsidised, and as a result were causing injury to the US domestic industry. Following the investigations conducted by the US authorities, the US imposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties in late 2012 on solar cells, whether or not assembled into modules, originating in China.

About a year later, in late 2013, SolarWorld lodged a new set of complaints that solar modules originating in China were being dumped and subsidised, and as a result, were causing injury to the US domestic industry. According to SolarWorld, Chinese producers were using a “loophole” in the original measures, by using solar cells produced in other countries such as Taiwan, and then exporting their solar modules to the US. As these solar modules did not contain solar cells originating in China, they were not subject to the original anti-dumping and countervailing duties. Measures were finally imposed in February 2015. The disputes have also seen several court challenges in the US and have been subject to reviews.

Jan-Mar 2017 issue

Jones Day