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Published on March 7th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


China Swallows U.S. Solar Trade Surplus & Grows a Big One in 1 Year

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March 7th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
Andrew has been covering the China-US solar trade dispute extensively for months now, and I did a bit at the beginning. A new report out by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) seems to lend some pretty strong evidence to the argument that China has been dumping solar technology in the US and very heavily subsidizing the industry. The new report shows that the US has gone from having a tremendous solar trade surplus of $1.9 billion, something we reported on enthusiastically last year, to having a solar trade deficit.

Most striking is this change: the US has gone from having a $247-million trade surplus with China to have a $1.6-billion trade deficit with the country. Images (from the new report):


“CASM’s findings are based on data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), as well as a prior study by GTM Research,” CASM notes in its news release about the new report.

“The CASM report comes on the heels of a report released by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, which found that the U.S. trade deficit for environmental goods grew by almost 90% in 2011 — a figure that includes both wind and solar technologies,” Stephen Lacey of Climate Progress adds.

“Chinese importers often claim that the modest U.S. trade surplus in 2010 proved that China is not threatening the U.S. solar industry and economy,” SolarWorld Industries America President Gordon Brinser writes. “But it is no longer 2010, and any trade surplus is history. Illegal dumping by massively subsidized Chinese solar producers, combined with curbed exports of polysilicon and manufacturing equipment, are decimating U.S. solar manufacturers, the supply chain and their export business.”

More from CASM:

“The SolarWorld-led CASM, which represents about 15,000 workers at more than 150 U.S. companies, asserts that this dramatic shift illustrates China’s systematic and pervasive use of illegal subsidies and dumping practices to seize the U.S. solar market and eliminate its manufacturing jobs. As a result of these actions, at least 12 domestic producers have undertaken layoffs, gone bankrupt or closed plants in all regions of the country over the past two years.”

Check out the new CASM report for more on the analysis discussed above.

Of course, this trade dispute has been highly controversial within the U.S. solar industry. Why? Because CASM’s efforts to combat potentially illegal trade practices and try to save the US solar manufacturing industry are in conflict with solar installers’ wish to have solar panel prices drop as fast as possible. CASM argues that, in the long run, anti-competitive solar trade practices will harm the US more than it helps it, but that is a hard argument to prove and hasn’t been able to satisfy solar companies on the installation side… from what I’ve read.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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  • gebby

    AGW is a world wide problem requiring cooperation from countries around the world. I dont expect punitive tariffs on the Chinese solar companies products. The expiration of treasury 1603 at the end of the year was a large reason for the rush of chinese modules.

    • Zachary Shahan

      Good point.

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