An industry proposal aimed at ending a long-running solar trade dispute between the United States and China continues to gain support among key lawmakers at both the state and federal levels, including the chairmen of the US Senate Finance and Budget committees.
For months, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been working behind the scenes in Washington and Beijing to resolve the current conflict and head off an escalation of trade sanctions. SEIA has warned US negotiators that any settlement similar to the recently-announced EU-China agreement would represent a blow to the U.S. solar industry because of an expected increase in solar prices. SEIA also believes that any resolution of the U.S.-China solar dispute must recognize the interests of all stakeholders, including American consumers, and not just one segment of the industry.
Among those who have expressed support of this approach include Washington Governor Jay Inslee, as well as US Senators Patty Murray (WA), Maria Cantwell (WA), Max Baucus (MT) and John Tester (MT).
“Support for our proposal is gaining momentum,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “We deeply appreciate the efforts of Governor Inslee and Senators Murray, Cantwell, Baucus and Tester. They recognize, like we do, that something has to be done to improve the ability of US manufacturers to compete fairly on an even playing field, while also protecting American consumers from unfair price increases. Our proposal would benefit all affected parties.”
"I am pleased to see this industry group put forward a creative solution aimed at ending these disagreements,” said Governor Inslee. “I have spoken with numerous federal officials, including the U.S. Trade Representative and the White House, about the need to find a workable solution to these ongoing disagreements that will allow the Washington and American solar industries to continue their impressive growth. This proposal would help ensure that Chinese and American industries play by the rules and are not burdened by unwarranted restrictions. The growing solar industry is an important and innovative part of Washington's economy and ongoing international trade disputes affecting the industry could have significant negative impacts on jobs and businesses in our state.”
Highlights of SEIA’s proposed solution include:
- Chinese companies would agree to create a fund that would benefit US solar manufacturers directly and help to grow the US market. Money for the fund would come from a percentage of the price premium Chinese companies are currently paying to third-country cell producers to get around US trade sanctions, reducing costs and supply chain distortion for Chinese companies.
- The Chinese government would also agree to end its antidumping and countervailing duty investigations on US polysilicon exports to China, and remove the threat of artificial cost increases in a key raw material in the solar value chain, benefiting not just Chinese solar companies but all users of solar energy.
- In return, the US antidumping and countervailing duties orders would be phased out.
- The proposal also calls for a safeguard mechanism designed to offset any surge of Chinese solar modules into the US market.
- As an added step, SEIA believes the US government should take all steps necessary to ensure that federal procurement opportunities are provided to domestic solar manufacturers in recognition of the importance of US solar manufacturing to the nation's long-term energy security.
“It’s abundantly clear that the solar trade dispute between the United States and China is already costing jobs and stifling the critically important solar industry, so I’m pleased that American industry leaders have put forward a commonsense proposal to resolve this problem,” said Senator Murray. “The ever-expanding solar energy industry supports thousands of good-paying jobs in Washington state, and continued development of solar technology is vital for our environment and the economy, so I’ll continue working with all the parties involved to find an equitable solution for American businesses and consumers.”
Senators Baucus and Tester weighed in with a joint statement:
“We applaud the efforts of the Solar Energy Industries Association to resolve the solar dispute between the US and China. Without a doubt, this dispute has had a harmful effect on jobs in the US and undercut our competitiveness in critical high-tech industries. The best outcome for workers, manufacturers and consumers in Montana and across the country is to negotiate a settlement and bring the dispute to a close. We are ready to work with all parties to resolve this important matter.”
Senator Cantwell added: “I am glad that we are making progress on ending this impasse (and) allow us to get back to the work of creating clean energy jobs that get products to the marketplace that are focused on reducing CO2 emissions.”