Malaysia among four probed by US for circumventing solar duties

The US Department of Commerce (Commerce) has opened an investigation into solar modules imported from four countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia.

Citing the International Trade Administration, the Commerce agency responsible for protecting US businesses from unfair pricing, global energy and commodity market business intelligence provider Argus Media on Tuesday (March 29) said the body will investigate whether solar products completed in and exported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are circumventing US solar duties.

Argus said these four countries account for over half of the non-Chinese solar cell imports into the US.

It said that because the investigation could result in retroactive tariffs on solar imports from those countries, the probe will slow solar industry growth even before the case is decided.

It added that imposing tariffs also would undercut President Joe Biden’s push to decarbonize the US grid, solar advocates warn.

Meanwhile, Argus quoted American Clean Power Association chief executive Heather Zichal as saying that without a reliable supply of solar modules while this investigation proceeds, project construction will grind to a halt, American workers risk being laid-off or furloughed.

“Commerce’s decision to open the case “chokes off up to 80% of the solar panel supply to the US,” she said.

The investigation answers a petition filed on Feb 8 by California-based photovoltaic panel assembler Auxin Solar, alleging imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are allowing Chinese solar components to avoid duties imposed by the agency in 2012.

The duties apply to crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells as well as modules, laminates and panels consisting of those cells.

Auxin Solar had said that manufacturers in the four countries are using components that originated in China and should therefoFeb re be included in the scope of the 2012 orders, citing laws that give the agency authority to find that duties should apply to certain components even if outside “the order’s literal scope.”

Argus said Commerce will publish its preliminary determination 150 days after the official investigation notice is published in the Federal Register.

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