U.S. Slaps High Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels
In May, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed antidumping tariffs of more than 31 percent on solar panels from China. The duties were imposed based on filings by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing. The Made in the USA Foundation is an active member of the Coalition. The Foundation has supported the coalition with letters to members of Congress and opeds (See page 3).
The duties imposed by the Commerce Department are certain to infuriate Chinese officials already upset after recent bilateral frictions over China’s human rights policies.
The antidumping decision is among the biggest in American history, covering one of the largest and fastest-growing categories of imports from China, the world’s largest exporter.
The Commerce Department said the United States bought $3.1 billion worth of Chinese solar cells last year, giving China more than half the American 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.
Li Junfeng, an energy policy maker and regulator in the Chinese government who is also the president of the government-controlled Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, responded angrily to the American decision.
“This is really a surprise.” “It’s really dangerous.” Mr. Li said that Chinese companies would “certainly” retaliate by filing a trade case at China’s commerce ministry accusing big American chemical companies of dumping polysilicon, the main ingredient in solar panels, on the Chinese market.
The American decision was made by civil servants in a quasi-judicial process that is heavily insulated by law from political interference and does not represent a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to confront China on trade policy. But that distinction has been largely lost in China, where the solar panel issue has been one of
many causes embraced online by the country’s vociferous ultranationalists, who put heavy pressure on Chinese officials to respond forcefully to perceived snubs to China.
The solar tariffs, which are retroactive to 90 days before the decision is officially published in the next several days, are in addition to antisubsidy tariffs of 2.9 to 4.73 percent 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. The decision “is a very positive step in the process. It’s also in line with what we expected,” said Ben Santarris, a company spokesman. “We consider this a bellwether case. It underscores the importance of manufacturing to the U.S. economy.”
AB 858 Advances in California
The Foundation is supporting California legislation that will unify the California “Made in the USA” standard with the Federal standard. Now, California requires a product to be 100% Made in the USA to carry the Made in the USA label. This bill has passed the General Assembly and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Sacramento. The Foundation’s position is that a 100% standard is unreachable, and for most complex products, unattainable.
Handmade in the USA:
The Foundation is working with the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild to promote products that are “Handmade in the USA.” Joel Joseph of the Foundation gave a speech at the Guild’s convention in Portland, Oregon in May. More than 300 soapmakers attended the meeting. You can find a handmade soapmaker in your state at the Guild’s website at www.soapguild.org.
America Must Protect Its Solar Industry
By Joel D. Joseph, Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation
The United States must lead the world in developing alternatives to oil, and solar energy should be a primary industry. Currently, Germany has more solar panels installed than the United States. Germany has about 25 gigawatts-worth of photovoltaic cells installed while the United States has only 2 gigawatts installed, with California providing half of that.
California and the American Southwest are much more compatible with solar power production than Germany. While Germany is cloudy and cold for six months of the year, California, Arizona and Nevada have warmth and sunshine most of the time. Fully 10% of Germany’s electricity is generated by solar cells. We can do much better.
Solar has come a long way in recent years and has great potential to grow in upcoming years. American innovation has solar approaching power at $1 per watt and parity with coal. Hawaii and large portions of Southern California are at wholesale grid parity. Residential and commercial solar markets are at retail grid parity in much of Northern California. This means that solar production is cost effective and competitive with coal.
That is the good news. Unfortunately, American solar manufacturing is at a crossroads. Simply put, events of the last two years have shaken the confidence our leaders and the public have in solar. Solyndra and China have been two daggers in the side of the American solar energy industry.
Chinese manufacturers, recipients of billions of dollars of illegal government subsidies, remain the culprit as they dump their products in the US market seeking to grab market share and push American manufacturers out of business. China’s unfair trade practices have crushed America’s solar industry, resulting in the closure or downsizing of twelve American manufacturing companies and the loss of thousands of American jobs. One company, SolarWorld, shut down its Camarillo, Calif., facility after 35 years last September and eliminated the jobs of nearly 200 employees. As a vocal advocate for products manufactured in the USA, this is startling news. The Made in the USA Foundation is one of 190 associate members of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) – which represents more than 16,000 workers nationwide – and also explains why we are extremely interested in the industry’s continued development.
The United States must maintain and support a strong domestic solar manufacturing base to not only protect much needed jobs but also to protect the solar industry and to combat the stranglehold that oil and coal have on the United States.
Manufacturing jobs offer workers better benefits and better pay, and generate higher-levels of additional jobs than other sectors throughout our economy, which are exactly what California and America need right now. In fact, a recent report by the Photo Voltaic Group of SEMI, the industry trade group, noted that manufacturing had the highest job multiplier of any segment of the American economy, higher than construction, agriculture, or information services.
With the worldwide solar energy marketplace growing rapidly and expected to become even larger in the future, America must maintain its position as a leader in solar energy manufacturing and innovation. We cannot allow China to assume that role and take American jobs by breaking international trade laws.
Fair trade can benefit American workers and companies. Our goods and services are among the best in the world and competition ensures that the market operates fairly. US companies can compete and win against foreign competitors in the global marketplace, but only if it is done on a level playing field.
Those nations that break the rules to give their industries an unfair advantage must be held accountable to U.S. and international trade laws.
Contrary to the claims of installers who rely on cheap, subsidized Chinese solar panels, we believe that the US government cannot ignore US trade laws. The United States must enforce its trade laws and keep solar panel production in the United States so that we can lead the greening of energy production worldwide.