Commerce to probe Chinese, Vietnamese wind tower manufacturers

Source: John McArdle • E&E • Posted: Friday, January 20, 2012

The Commerce Department announced this afternoon that it is opening an investigation into whether Chinese and Vietnamese utility-scale wind tower manufacturers have benefited from illegal trade practices — a move that is likely to further escalate a budding renewables trade war between the United States and China.

The investigations could lead to hefty new duties being placed on Chinese and Vietnamese wind towers sold in the United States, an import market that was valued at an estimated $156 million in 2010, according to a release from Commerce today.

Commerce is officially initiating antidumping investigations against both countries as well as a countervailing duty investigation to determine whether China is providing unfair benefits to its wind tower industry. The decision follows a move by the U.S. International Trade Commission to initiate its own antidumping investigation earlier this month.

ITC is scheduled to decide in mid-February whether there are reasonable indications that the foreign wind tower imports are injuring the domestic industry. If ITC decides that is the case, Commerce could make its first rulings on the matter as early as March.

The investigations were originally called for by a group of U.S. companies coined the Wind Tower Trade Coalition. That group is made up of Broadwind Towers Inc., DMI Industries, Katana Summit LLC and Trinity Structural Towers Inc.

The conflict over Chinese and Vietnamese wind towers comes as a group of U.S. solar manufacturers has called for new import duties to be placed on cheap Chinese solar panels. A bipartisan group of congressional leaders has voiced its support for such a move, and ITC and Commerce are already investigating whether to institute such tariffs.

As both investigations move forward, the Chinese government has responded by launching its own probe targeting U.S. subsidies and government policies in the solar, wind and hydroelectric sectors.

In the wake of those investigations, several renewable energy industry executives have increasingly voiced concern about the potential of a full-blown trade war in the renewable market.