Beijing has demanded that Washington repeal the steep tariffs set on solar panels that will effectively shut Chinese equipment makers out of the US market. With both presidential candidates harping on about China’s lack of respect for free trade, this act of naked protectionism provides a nice does of cruel irony.
“The United States is inciting trade friction in new energy and sending a negative signal to the whole world about protectionism and obstructing the development of new energy development,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang said in a statement Thursday. It gave no indication whether Beijing might retaliate.
The US Commerce Department upheld charges of up to 250% on Chinese solar panel producers to counter what it said were “improper subsidies” by Beijing to the industry. About 10% of all American government subsidies go to supporting domestic solar power manufacturers.
Chinese solar equipment manufacturers warned earlier that sanctions could result in a loss of American jobs because U.S. companies are both buyers of Chinese products and suppliers of materials. They said Chinese manufacturers spend some $2 billion a year to buy materials such as polysilicon from U.S. suppliers.
Foreign competitors complain Chinese solar manufacturers get improper government support in the form of low-cost access to land, bank loans and other resources. Beijing acknowledges giving research grants and tax breaks but says those are in line with its free-trade commitments and practices by other governments.