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Mainland China Challenges U.S. Safeguard Tariffs on Solar Products at WTO

On 14 August, mainland China lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against the U.S. safeguard restrictions on crystalline silicone photovoltaic cells and modules, which consist of safeguard tariffs of 30 percent from 7 February 2018 through 6 February 2019, 25 percent from 7 February 2019 through 6 February 2020, 20 percent from 7 February 2020 through 6 February 2021, and 15 percent from 7 February 2021 through 6 February 2022. Imports of CSPV cells up to 2.5 gigawatts per year are exempt from this safeguard measure. The initiation of a dispute settlement proceeding comes after previous consultations failed to produce an agreement over compensation pursuant to the WTO Safeguard Agreement.

“As the U.S. measures severely damaged Chinese trade interests, China’s choice to resort to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism is a necessary move to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests and multilateral trade rules,” a spokesperson with mainland China’s Ministry of Commerce said. “Besides the safeguard measures, the United States granted additional subsidies to domestic renewable energy products, including photovoltaic products, which are suspected of being import substitution subsidies and violating its national treatment obligations,” the spokesperson added. MOFCOM also urged the United States to “take practical action, respect WTO rules and abandon its wrong practices, to bring the trade of related products back to normal.”

The United States contends that there has been a surge in U.S. imports of solar products and denies that compensation is required under the relevant WTO provisions.

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