Feb 9 (Reuters) - A U.S. solar panel maker is asking federal trade officials to investigate whether to impose tariffs on imports from four Asian countries, arguing that Chinese manufacturers had shifted production to those nations to avoid paying duties.
The petition, filed by San Jose, California-based Auxin Solar with the Department of Commerce on Tuesday, came days after the administration of President Joe Biden extended but eased tariffs on overseas-made solar products, disappointing the small U.S. solar manufacturing industry.
Auxin was among the companies that had sought a tariff extension.
Domestic solar producers in recent years have sought trade remedies repeatedly, saying their products cannot compete with cheaper Asian panels that dominate the market. But U.S. solar trade groups have opposed tariffs because their members - facility developers and panel installers - rely on cheap imports to compete with fossil fuels.
In the filing, Auxin said Chinese components are being shipped to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to be made into solar cells and modules so that they can enter the U.S. market duty-free. The U.S. imposes antidumping and countervailing duties on cells and panels made in China.
"The Government of China and major Chinese producers simply refuse to trade fairly," Auxin Solar Chief Executive Mamun Rashid said in a statement.
"Instead of ending rampant government subsidization of the solar supply chain and Chinese producers raising their prices to stop dumping, the Chinese simply moved to another country as an export platform to continue assaulting the U.S. market with incredibly cheap products."
Auxin's petition is similar to one rejected by the Commerce Department three months ago. That effort, by a group of anonymous domestic solar companies, sought tariffs on panels imported by three South Asian nations.
Commerce quashed that petition partly because of the group's anonymity.
In a statement, the American Clean Power Association called the filing "a costly distraction from the need to quickly deploy renewable energy at scale."
Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Chang