Workers assemble solar panels on the factory floor of the Chinese company Suntech. Peter Parks/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
By Keith Bradsher and Matthew L. Wald, March 20, 2012 —
The Commerce Department said on Tuesday that it would impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China after concluding that the Chinese government provided illegal export subsidies to manufacturers there. . . .
Whatever political spin proponents or critics might want to put on the tariff decision, there is no question that solar panels from China now control about half of the American market, while panels from the United States control less than a third.
American imports of Chinese solar panels have soared to $2.65 billion last year from $21.3 million in 2005.
While American manufacturers oppose the imports and filed the trade case against China, users of solar energy have benefited from low-cost Chinese solar panels. An American industry group composed of companies that sell and install solar panels said Tuesday that it was pleased with the relatively small size of the tariffs, having braced for higher ones. . . .
“If the tariffs were big, 20 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent, it would be really bad for U.S. jobs,” he said. “If it’s a small tariff, it does send a signal to encourage manufacturers to do more manufacturing in the U.S., but it’s not enough to have a huge impact on costs.” And it will not set off a trade war, he predicted.
Globally, low-cost Chinese panels have driven down the cost of solar energy by two-thirds in the last four years, narrowing but not eliminating the wide price gap that used to separate solar power from electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. . . .
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