WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department is giving itself an extra month to investigate charges of unfair Chinese government subsidies in a case brought by the U.S. unit of German solar energy company SolarWorld, a department official said on Friday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the department will issue its preliminary decision on countervailing duties on February 14, instead of around January 12 as originally scheduled.
The high-profile case has further strained U.S. trade relations with China, with Beijing slamming any move by Washington to impose duties on Chinese-made solar panels as "protectionist."
In addition, many companies that install solar panels in the United States are opposed to duties and have urged Solar World to drop the case, which they say threatens the viability of solar power compared to other fuels.
The United States imported $1.5 billion of the solar products in 2010, up from $640 million in 2009.
SolarWorld Industries Americas has accused China of providing a long list of subsidies to help Chinese solar cell and panel manufacturers grab market share.
Industry officials on both sides of the case had expected the Commerce Department to delay its preliminary decision on countervailing duties to offset the alleged subsidies because of the complexity of the case.
SolarWorld also is seeking additional anti-dumping duties of more than 100 percent to what it says are unfair pricing practices by its Chinese competitors.
The Commerce Department is scheduled to make its preliminary decision on anti-dumping duties in late March.
(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Paul Simao)