First Solar Inc. (FSLR:US), one of the largest suppliers of photovoltaic panels to India, challenged in court the findings of a government probe that said U.S. and Asian suppliers dumped products in the local market.
The biggest U.S. solar-panel maker joined with an Indian trade group for project developers calling the outcome flawed, at a Delhi High Court hearing yesterday, according to Sujoy Ghosh, First Solar’s chief for India, and Welspun Energy Ltd. Managing Director Vineet Mittal, who heads the group. Welspun is India’s largest solar developer and a major importer.
Their petitions claim that the Ministry of Commerce & Industry in its 1 1/2-year anti-dumping investigation rejected data submitted by overseas competitors of Indian photovoltaic producers. They also said the ministry failed to consider evidence showing that domestic producers don’t possess sufficient local domestic production capacity to legally warrant a probe, according to the group.
The ministry’s reasons for rejecting evidence during the investigation “are unclear,” Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar said in an e-mailed response to questions today. It “does not appear to have taken into account the facts provided to the authorities.”
The investigation began in 2012, after domestic makers Indosolar Ltd. (ISLR), Websol Energy System Ltd. (WESL) and Jupiter Solar Power Ltd. alleged U.S., Chinese, Malaysian and Taiwanese solar companies sold products in India below cost, a practice commonly called dumping.
Indosolar Managing Director H.R. Gupta said in an e-mail that he wasn’t privy to the court case today. The other domestic makers didn’t respond to requests for comment. J.S. Deepak, additional secretary at the ministry overseeing the case, wasn’t available when called at his office.
The ministry issued a document last week indicating that it was preparing to recommend duties on imports, making them less competitive with Indian-made solar equipment. It concluded that more than 20 overseas suppliers, including First Solar and Yingli Green Energy Holding (YGE:US) Co., sold the devices in India for as little as half the cost as in their home markets and undercut local prices by as much as a third.
According to World Trade Organization rules, an anti-dumping probe can’t be initiated if the producers supporting the application account for less than 25 percent of national production. The ministry rejected submissions that said Indosolar, Websol and Jupiter account for just 12 percent.
“It was technically flawed,” Mittal said by phone today. “When you don’t have enough manufacturing in the country, trade barriers don’t make any sense.”
The ministry faces a deadline tomorrow to decide whether to impose duties before the case expires under WTO rules. First Solar’s Ghosh declined to answer a question on whether the Delhi High Court has the authority to extend that deadline.
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