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An employee walks between rows of solar panels at a solar power plant on the outskirts of Dunhuang, Gansu province, China.

SHENG LI/Reuters

In a decision that differs from the analysis of Canadian regulators, the Australian government has ruled that the dumping of solar panels by Chinese manufacturers is not significantly harming the local industry and therefore does not warrant countervailing duties.

The decision contrasts with Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) recent move to impose stiff import duties on Chinese panels coming into this country, citing significant harm to Canada's solar panel makers.

Australia's anti-dumping commission ruled Tuesday that several Chinese firms have dumped solar modules and panels into the country, but it said that action "has caused negligible injury to the Australian industry." It noted that there is only one domestic solar panel maker in Australia – Tindo Solar Pty. Ltd. – and that Tindo was hurt mainly by other market factors, not cheap Chinese imports.

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Tindo has a solar panel plant in South Australia, and makes panels mainly for use in that state. Its 2014 complaint launched the anti-dumping investigation in Australia.

Even if Chinese panels were not dumped into the country and the prices were higher, the commission said in its 64-page report, "the price offers of the imported goods from China would provide a significant competitive advantage to importers."

The situation is very different in Canada, which has followed the United States and the European Union in imposing stiff duties on imported Chinese panels because of damage to the domestic industry.

The CBSA put provisional duties in place in March after the Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruled that cheap Chinese panels are likely hurting Canada's domestic panel makers. A further ruling from the CBSA will come this summer, and then the CITT will hold a full inquiry before there is a final detailed determination on the matter.

The Canadian solar panel industry is far more developed than Australia's, with several companies here making panels and modules for the domestic market and for export. Four Ontario-based companies filed the initial complaint – Eclipsall Energy Corp., Heliene Inc., Silfab Ontario Inc., and Solgate Inc. They said unfair competition means they are losing sales and market share, and this has put them under pressure to cut prices.

The provisional Canadian duties range from 9 per cent to 202 per cent on nine specific Chinese panels exporters, and a duty of 286 per cent on all other Chinese exporters.

While the Canadian panel makers welcomed the import duties, companies installing solar systems say the decision could boost prices and thus dent enthusiasm for solar power in Canada.

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Lawyer Thomas Timmins, who heads Gowlings' global renewable energy practice group, said the Australian decision should have no impact on the Canadian case because the two countries have very different legal and regulatory regimes.

Still, Mr. Timmins said, the fact that so many countries are examining alleged dumping of Chinese solar panels "does show you that China's incredible manufacturing capabilities in solar have had an impact around the world." It is clear that "China is driving the cost of solar down" and that is producing a defensive response from domestic solar companies in many countries, he said.

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