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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

March 7th, 2012 by  

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

Zach is tryin’ to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he’s also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don’t jump to conclusions.

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