The anti-dumping decision is among the biggest in U.S. history

The United States, on Thursday, announced the imposition of anti-dumping tariffs of more than 31 per cent on solar panels from China.

The move by the Commerce Department is certain to infuriate Chinese officials already upset after recent bilateral frictions over China's human rights policies and its increasingly confrontational approach toward U.S. allies such as the Philippines and Japan.

The anti-dumping decision is among the biggest in U.S. history, covering one of the largest and fastest-growing categories of imports from China, the world's largest exporter.

The department said the United States bought $3.1-billion worth of Chinese solar cells last year, giving China more than half the U.S. market for the devices.

Many solar panel installers in the United States have opposed tariffs on Chinese panels, contending that inexpensive imports have helped spur many homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops.

The new tariffs are likely to mean a substantial increase in the price of solar panels in the U.S.

Chinese officials have been indignant at U.S. criticism of their solar power industry, pointing out that the United States has urged China for years to embrace renewable energy as a way to reduce air pollution, combat climate change and limit the need for oil imports from politically volatile countries in the Mideast. Government support for solar energy is an important feature of China's current Five-Year Plan, which runs through 2015, although Premier Wen Jiabao publicly cautioned in March that he was becoming concerned about overcapacity in the sector.

Further complicating matters is a similar case against China and Vietnam over the manufacture of steel towers for wind turbines, charging that steep government subsidies were giving foreign companies an unfair advantage over U.S. manufacturers. A preliminary ruling is due on May 30 in that case.

The solar tariffs, which are retroactive to 90 days before the decision is officially published in the next several days, are in addition to anti-subsidy tariffs of 2.9 to 4.73 per cent that the department imposed in March.

SolarWorld Industries America, which led the coalition of manufacturers that filed the solar dumping case, welcomed the department's ruling.

In Thursday's decision, the Commerce Department sided with SolarWorld in using solar manufacturing costs in Thailand as a proxy for costs in China.

The Chinese industry had wanted to use India as a proxy instead. — New York Times News Service