DiMicco: Stopping China’s Plot to Dominate the Solar Industry

Solar panels in Hami, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

When it comes to solar panel manufacturing, the United States once reigned supreme in the high-tech, high-end solar manufacturing industry it created.

Today, just a few years later, only a handful of American-based manufacturers remain, including larger firms like Suniva and Solar World. Most have gone out of business in a dramatic decline that is hardly a simple coincidence. Over the last decade, China has methodically attacked America’s solar industry in an effort to bankrupt U.S. companies and dominate global markets.

The damage from China’s predatory trade practices isn’t new, but the flood of subsidized solar cells and modules into the U.S. market for less than the cost of making them has hit the solar industry like no other. Between just 2008 and 2013, China’s actions caused prices to drop by 80 percent. China’s solar industry — in violation of world trade law — uses massive subsidies and stolen intellectual property to build factories, achieve massive scale, and create overcapacity.

China has decided to make cheating the centerpiece of their strategy to dominate this industry. The U.S. imposed sanctions previously. But Chinese companies avoided them by simply shifting production to other countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.

The problem is not limited to solar panels. The Chinese Communist Party’s so-called “five-year plans” include strategies to dominate many industries from automotive to aerospace to advanced technology. Their “Made in China 2025” plan will use massive subsidies to state-influenced companies to dominate ten important future industries such as information technology, machine tools and robotics and advanced medical products.

Thankfully, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has now ruled unanimously in favor of the two U.S. solar manufacturers that filed a trade case seeking balance. President Trump now has until January 26, 2018, to decide on a strong remedy that includes a tariff on solar panel imports. The President can carry out his “America First” promises by countering President Xi Jinping’s “China First” strategy with effective action.

Regrettably, the continuing Chinese effort to break American solar manufacturing includes lobbying. This month, members of the House and Senate sent letters to President Donald Trump seeking to water down any remedy for the trade violations in the solar industry that the ITC already recommended. In effect, these elected officials have sided with China on an important trade case, against U.S. manufacturers.

Regardless of their motive, these Members of Congress are unwittingly enabling Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “China 2025″ strategy to capture and dominate future, high-tech industries. In other words, American legislators are helping China win the future.

These elected officials didn’t act alone. Groups claiming to represent the entire American solar industry have long abandoned U.S. solar manufacturers and ignored China’s unfair trade practices. As they ramped up their efforts, and to undercut any resistance to the flood of imports, Chinese solar companies began to join American trade associations to influence them, including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Some Chinese executives even sit on SEIA’s board, and SEIA has given informal legal advice to the Chinese.

Our organization, the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a trade group representing 4.1 million U.S. households, has many manufacturing members who have lost sales and laid off employees because of trade cheating and trade deficits. We’re concerned that Members of Congress are enabling China’s road to global economic dominance and that America’s workers will be the ultimate losers.

President Trump should to not be afraid to impose an effective remedy. With strong tariffs on solar panel imports, the President can do what he promised on the campaign trail, save an American industry, and let China know that we will not be pushed around anymore.

Daniel DiMicco is the Chairman of the Coalition for a Prosperous America and former CEO of Nucor Corporation.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.