China Slams US Duties on Solar Products

Posted October 11th, 2012 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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China is slamming steep tariffs imposed by the United States on Chinese-made solar panels, saying they are an unfair trade barrier that will create “friction” between the world's two largest economies.

Wednesday, the U.S. Commerce Department upheld charges of 18 to nearly 250 percent on Chinese solar panel producers to counter what it says is improper Chinese government support of the industry. A separate set of countervailing duties was put at between 15 and 16 percent.

China Commerce Ministry spokesperson Shen Danyang on Thursday called for the U.S. to repeal the tariffs, saying Washington should “correct its mistaken ways.” He says the U.S. is sending “a negative signal to the world that stirs global trade protectionism.”

Timothy Brightbill, a lawyer for SolarWorld, one of companies that brought the case, praised the decision. He said it is “another important step” in returning the solar marketplace in the United States to “fair competition.”

Scott Kennedy, director of the Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business for Indiana University in Beijing, told VOA the issue is not simply that China is supporting its green energy industry.

“This is an industry that, in order to get to the economies of scale necessary for it to be competitive against other forms of energy, requires government support – taxes, subsidies and other types of policy support. They just need to be provided broadly to companies regardless of what countries they originate from, and I think that's the source of consternation in the U.S.”

Asia Society senior fellow Jamie Metzl tells VOA the ruling is part of a broad global effort to send a message to China that its government subsidies are excessive.

“This isn't just an issue for the United States. The Europeans have a very similar claim also with regard to solar panels. There are similar allegations being made in Africa. The world welcomes, and should welcome China as a rising global power … but it all needs to happen within the global rules of the game.”

But Metzl says he does not anticipate the ruling will have a long-term impact on U.S.-China trade relations, saying both sides realize the interdependence of their economies.

The tariffs will not go into effect until the ruling is confirmed by the U.S. International Trade Commission, which is expected to decide on the case in November.