SPI 2011: SolarWorld spearheading coalition to petition US government from “unfair trade” by China

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Oregon-based SolarWorld announced that along with seven other US manufacturers, it had petitioned the US federal government to stop what it calls, “an ever-increasing tide of heavily subsidized solar cells and panels that China’s state-supported solar industry is illegally dumping into the American market.” Spearheaded under the name, The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, the group filed complaints with both the US Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission.

The overall aim of the coalition is to stop what it considers as China’s demolishment of US solar jobs and manufacturing opportunities. The complaint states that margins have been dumped over 100% and that large subsidies, which it claims are the largest in the history of the renewable industry, are most frequently found in China.

“Artificially low-priced solar products from China are crippling the domestic industry,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America.  “China’s systematic campaign to dismantle the US industry has cost thousands of jobs in Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania,” Brinser continued. “China’s wrongful tactics run systematically across the board; central planning has subsidized most facets of these companies’ business. China actually has no production cost advantage. Labor makes up a modest share of solar-industry costs, China’s labor is less productive, its raw material and equipment have come from the West and China must pay for long-distance shipping. Yet, massive state subsidies and sponsorship have enabled Chinese manufacturers to illegally dump their products into a wide-open US market.”

The petitions specifically claim that the Chinese government, with its state controlled financial, utility and other institutions have mingled with the solar manufacturing industry, have arranged for a huge amount of land grants, contract awards, trade barriers, financing breaks and supply-chain subsidies for the advancement of its industry pricing and export.

The coalition additionally claims that China exports nearly all of its production to benefit from other markets’ consumption incentive, which leads the country to increase output and impede imports. Furthermore, claims have been made that the country bypasses US-level manufacturing standards for labor, quality and the environment.

SolarWorld noted that imports of Chinese crystalline solar cells and panels grew over 300% between 2008 and 2010. In July 2011, SolarWorld pointed to exports exceeding those from the whole of 2010.  The company also pointed to Chinese imports into the United States totaling US$1.6 billion during the first eight months of 2011.

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