United States International Trade Commission commissioners will vote Friday on weather or not the U.S. solar industry is harmed by the alleged dumping of Chinese solar components.
Launched by Hillsboro, Oregon-based SolarWorld Industries America in October, the trade complaint accuses Chinese solar companies of unfairly profiting from government subsidies allowing them to dump their solar components and cells in the U.S. to the point of saturation.
It's has been a divisive issue, with U.S. companies entrenching themselves on either side. The dispute prompted the Chinese government to launch its own dumping case against the U.S. importation of polysilicon, the raw material needed to create photovoltaic materials. Shortly after the trade complaint was first filed, China withheld U.S-bound solar cells.
Opponents claim the possible imposition of a tariff, if the case proceeds to the end, will hurt the country's domestic solar industry and threaten jobs, but SolarWorld is claiming U.S. companies are already being hurt, citing hundred of jobs in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and California lost due to the dumping.
In an editorial published in Oregon Live on Nov. 16, Gordon Brinser, SolarWorld Industries America's president, said China wants to take over the U.S. solar industry.
The result has been calamitous for U.S. solar companies and workers, forcing seven American plants to close or downsize during the past 18 months, Brinser wrote of Chinese imports.
The Global Trade Atlas calculates the total value of Chinese solar imports in the country at $1.5 billion in 2010, a 200 percent increase since 2008.
What happens tomorrow could either break or propel the case forward. If commissioners side with the German-headquartered company, then they would have made a preliminary determination that U.S. solar companies are indeed being harmed by the alleged dumping - not that Chinese solar firms are actually dumping their wares.
That second distinction will be made by the Commerce Department who will make its preliminary ruling on the dumping case itself later next year.
Concerns relating to the dumping of solar components by Chinese manufacturers have also hit elsewhere.
Australia, whose only solar module producer Silex Solar has had to shut down its solar modules and cell manufacturing plants, is conducting its own trade investigation into allegations of Chinese dumping, reported Recharge, an online Norway-headquartered renewable energy news website.
In Europe, SolarWorld's flagship, headquartered in Germany, has been circulating a petition since Nov. 16 in favor of having the EU launch its own trade investigation .
If ITC commissioners rule Friday, however, that there is no harm done to U.S. companies, the case is over.