US solar safeguard and subsidies ‘seriously damaged’ our trade interests, China tells WTO

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The US introduced its safeguard tariffs in January this year. Flickr: Roydotluck

China has filed a complaint at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US’ 30% safeguard tariffs on solar imports as well as its renewable energy subsidies, claiming that they distort the global PV market – a move which comes as part of wider trade battle between the two global powers.

A spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday that the tariffs are suspected of violating WTO rules and therefore undermining the WTO’s authority. The spokesperson also said that US subsidies for its own domestic PV manufacturing were giving its industry an “unfair competitive advantage and damaged the legitimate rights and interests of China's renewable energy companies”.

Both the safeguard and the subsidies “have seriously damaged China's trade interests”, said the spokesperson, before adding: “We urge the US to take concrete actions, respect the rules of the WTO, and abandon the wrong practices so that the relevant trade can be restored to normal track.”

The US introduced its safeguard tariffs in January this year and while China’s own solar policy upheaval has already started reducing solar equipment costs and therefore undermines the impact of the US duties, several Chinese firms have already announced plans to set up module assembly factories within the US since the duty imposition.

After a US spat with India at the WTO, which led to India having to drop its Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) policy, India – like China now – complained to the WTO about the US’ own subsidies for its manufacturers in eight states.

Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, the EU, Taiwan, South Korea and China have all filed complaints about the US tariffs (but not its subsidies) already this year, with China kicking off proceedings as early as 7 February.

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