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Hawaii companies get a break in China trade dispute

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 1:23 p.m. HST, Nov 7, 2012

A small group of local solar energy companies that paid import duties retroactively on photovoltaic panels shipped from China will have their payments refunded as the result of a ruling issued today by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

In the first of two votes the ITC upheld duties on Chinese manufacturers who were found responsible for harming the U.S. panel industry by dumping solar products in the United States below cost. However, the federal trade panel declined to make a finding of “critical circumstances,” which would have made the penalties retroactive.

The second part of the ruling was welcome news for Marco Mangelsdorf, a Hawaii island PV installer whose testified against the duties at an ITC hearing last month in Washington, D.C. ProVision Solar, owned by Mangelsdorf and Douglas Bath, was on the hook for about $138,000 in duties for a shipment of panels from a manufacturer in Jiangsu province.

“This is beyond fantastic news,” Mangelsdorf said. “I’ll never know what effect, if any, going to Washington and telling my story to the commissioners had on the outcome. But it gives me the feeling that one small business owner speaking up can make a positive difference.”

All six members of the ITC voted to support a Commerce Department decision to impose anti-dumping duties of up to 250 percent on imports of Chinese-made solar products. The commissioners voted 4-2 against making a determination of critical circumstances.

“As a result of the Commission’s negative determinations regarding critical circumstances, the antidumping and countervailing duty orders concerning those imports will not apply retroactively to goods that entered the United States prior to the date of publication in th Federal Register of the Department of Commerce’s affirmative preliminary determinations,” according to an ITC news release.

The U.S. Commerce Department in June hit Pro­Vision Solar and an estimated 100 other companies around the country with retroactive tariffs. Officials from the Hawaii Solar Energy Association said they was aware of only a small number of Hawaii PV installers that paid retroactive duties as a result of the Commerce Department’s preliminary ruling.

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