Tariffs to be imposed on imports of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules to the USA from China will not have a material impact on the US solar power market, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The organisation has announced a new initiative aimed at improving international dialogue over trade and competitiveness in response to the trade war between US and Chinese manufacturers that has split the US solar industry.

The US Department of Commerce has ruled to impose tariffs of up to 4.73 per cent on Chinese manufacturers because they benefit from unfair export subsidies. The ruling is preliminary and follows an investigation by the US government that was prompted by a formal complaint by SolarWorld.

The level of tariffs imposed by the Department of Commerce is lower than expected and illustrates that Chinese manufacturers do not benefit from “massive subsidisation”, according to CASE, a coalition of US solar module manufacturers that are opposed to the introduction of tariffs.

However it also said that it had more work to do because the Commerce Department in May will announce whether anti-dumping duties will also be levied on Chinese imports.

Chinese manufacturers have raised concerns over the impact of tariffs on trade. CASE is concerned about the impact that tariffs would have on the price of PV goods in the USA, and on growth in the US solar industry.

“Tariffs large or small will hurt American jobs and prolong our world’s reliance on fossil fuels,” said CASE in a statement. “Fortunately, this decision will not significantly raise solar prices in the United States as SolarWorld has sought.”

The SEIA has remained largely neutral in the dispute but is now aiming to help the US solar industry to resolve trade issues before they escalate to action by trade bodies.

It has already held talks with national and international renewable energy and trade associations with a view to promoting trade and innovation while taking into account the “unique and important role of governments in the development of the solar energy industry”.

“SEIA is supportive of a rules-based process for resolving trade disputes in the solar industry and the Department of Commerce’s investigation is certainly part of that process,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “But the trade action against Chinese imports is indicative of a growing trend of trade conflict in the global solar energy industry that threatens to curtail the rapid growth we have seen in this market – both in the US and abroad.

“Governments and industry must recognize that while trade remedy proceedings such as antidumping and countervailing duty investigations are an important part of the global trade rules, so too are collaboration and negotiations.

“This is why SEIA is taking a proactive lead to create a dialogue with several leading national solar trade associations and governments from around the world.”