The US International Trade Commission (ITC) is to investigate claims that the US photovoltaic industry is being unfairly disadvantaged by the import of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells from China.

The Department of Commerce, which had previously agreed to initiate antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations, is to proceed with the investigation.

Antidumping investigations focus on whether imports are being sold in the United States at less than fair value, and a countervail investigation focuses on whether manufacturers, producers, or exporters receive countervailable government subsidies. These subsidies may include: grants; goods, services, or land for less than adequate remuneration; loans; tax benefits; export subsidies; and/or export guarantees and insurance.

The investigation was launched initially in October, when SolarWorld Industries America, supported by a group called the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, petitioned The Department of Commerce for the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on PV cells from China.

While U.S. manufacturers are asking for a level playing field as compared to Chinese manufacturers, solar developers argue that cheap PV from China has allowed PV installation and construction jobs in the United States to increase significantly. A group of U.S. companies has organized under the name of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) to oppose the imposition of duties. Both sides put their cases forward during Q1, 2012.

China’s lower cost structure and aggressive pricing has led to Chinese suppliers gaining market share throughout 2011 – four of the world’s five largest suppliers are based in China.