US solar panel probe draws protest from ministry

US solar panel probe draws protest from ministry

The Commerce Ministry is preparing to protest against a US investigation that could result in tariffs on solar panels imported from four Southeast Asian nations including Thailand.

On March 28, the US Commerce Department announced on its website that it planned to open inquiries into whether solar cells and modules produced in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, using parts and components from China and exported to the US, are circumventing anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders on solar cells and modules from the mainland.

The inquiries are being initiated because of Auxin Solar Inc’s request to the department.

According to Pitak Udomwichaiwat, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, the department submitted a protest letter on March 8 to Marisa Lago, the US under secretary of commerce for international trade, explaining that Thai solar cell products have undergone substantial transformation processes, not minimal operations.

In addition, Mr Pitak said Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit sent another letter on March 29 to US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in protest against the US administration’s plan to launch a probe.

As part of the inquiries, the US department plans to issue questionnaires to solicit information from companies in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to determine whether the production processes used to produce solar cells and modules in each of these countries are “minor or insignificant”.

Specifically, the forms will include questions regarding the origin of inputs used to produce solar cells and modules, the level of investment and R&D in each country, the nature of the production processes in each country, and the extent of the production processes and facilities in each country.

The US Commerce Department plans to issue its preliminary findings in 150 days. A final determination is due in 300 days, with the potential for one 65-day extension.

Mr Pitak said the Foreign Trade Department will soon call a joint meeting with Thai solar cell exporters to prepare a defence against such allegations.

According to Commerce Ministry data, Thailand’s solar cell exports have expanded continuously, with key markets comprising the US, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan and China.

In 2021, Thailand shipped US$1.07 billion worth of solar cells to the US, making up 49.1% of the country’s total solar cell exports.