(Reuters) - China's Commerce Ministry castigated the United States on Monday for setting new import duties on Chinese solar products, saying Washington's actions risked damaging the industry in both countries.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Friday placed anti-dumping duties as high as 165.05 percent on solar panels and cells from China after a preliminary finding that the products were being sold too cheaply in the U.S. market.
The move, which must still be confirmed, was the latest in a long-running solar industry trade spat between the world's two largest economies, and comes on top of anti-subsidy duties levied last month.
The U.S. side disregarded the facts in its decision, an unnamed Chinese commerce official from the trade remedies and investigations bureau said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.
"The frequent adoption of trade remedies cannot resolve the United States' solar industry development problems. We hope the United States can prudently handle this investigation, quickly end investigation procedures and create a good environment for competition in the global solar industry," the official said.
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Trade friction is unavoidable, but governments have a responsibility to prevent it from harming China-U.S. relations, the official said.
"If escalating problems in the China-U.S. solar industry are ignored, in the end it will damage up and downstream industries in both countries."
The U.S. arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG is seeking to close a loophole allowing Chinese producers to sidestep duties imposed in 2012, complaining that Chinese manufacturers dodged those duties by shifting production of the cells used to make their panels to Taiwan.
Under Friday's preliminary ruling, Taiwanese producers also face anti-dumping duties of up to 44.18 percent.
But the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which represents mainly installers, said the duties would hinder the deployment of clean energy by raising the prices of solar products and hurting consumers.
The solar industry has suffered in recent years from a glut of products from China, falling prices and a withdrawal of consumer subsidies in Europe, which have squeezed margins and spawned a rash of trade disputes.
U.S. imports of solar products from China were worth $1.5 billion in 2013, half the level of 2011, while imports from Taiwan more than doubled to $657 million over the period, according to U.S. data.
The U.S. Commerce Department will make its final decision by Dec. 15. The U.S. International Trade Commission is due to make a decision on whether the imports pose or threaten injury to U.S. producers by Jan. 29.