Sherrod Brown

06/05/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/05/2024 11:01

Brown Leads Push for a Level Playing Field for Workers in U.S. Solar Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is leading the push for the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce to level the playing field for American solar workers by supporting a set of antidumping and countervailing duty petitions filed by the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee-which includes First Solar in Perrysburg. In a letter to the Secretary of Commerce and the Chair of the ITC, Brown is demanding they thoroughly investigate Chinese companies with facilities in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam that are engaging in unfair trade practices to avoid U.S. tariffs and undermine the U.S. solar industry and its workers, to pave the way for further action to combat China's cheating.

Brown was joined by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Joe Manchin (I-WV), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA); and U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09), Chris Deluzio (D-PA-17), Jon Garamendi (D-CA-08), Jared Golden (D-ME-02), Frank Mrvan (D-IN-01), and Terri Sewell (D-AL-07).

"U.S. solar workers and manufacturers are ready to compete on a level playing field, but leaving China's cheating unaddressed puts thousands of American solar jobs and the domestic solar industry in jeopardy. Supporting the petitions filed by the Alliance helps hold China accountable and ensure all Americans and our allies benefit from a thriving U.S. solar manufacturing base," the members wrote. "Careful consideration of all four countries in the petitions is a necessity, as a negative determination in one will lead Chinese-headquartered producers to shift production to that country. We support the Alliance's AD/CVD petitions to give the U.S. solar industry its chance to shine."

"It's clear that China illegally subsidizes its solar industry to deliberately undermine American manufacturers like First Solar. And the Biden Administration's misguided tariff pause has allowed China to put in place this scheme to dodge tariffs the moment they're reinstated. The ITC and the Commerce Department need to recognize China's obvious cheating, and level the playing field for Ohio workers," said Brown. "American manufacturers can't expand and scale up production if they're constantly dealing with a flood of illegally-subsidized imports."

"America has the once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a diverse, competitive solar manufacturing base that enables energy security, creates middle-class jobs, and delivers economic value," said Jason Dymbort, executive vice president and general counsel, First Solar. "However, China denies American solar manufacturers the opportunity to compete on a level playing field by cornering the market using unfair, anti-competitive, and illegal trade practices, which these petitions seek to address. Our country's solar manufacturing ambitions can only endure if enabled by robust trade policy of the kind championed by Senator Brown and Representative Kaptur for so long."

"Senator Brown has always understood what these solar trade cases are all about, which is to bring back and protect good-paying, local, American jobs. Solar technology was invented in America and we have the workers, innovation, and capacity to be a global solar leader once again, if given a level playing field. Thanks to the historic clean energy investments in the Inflation Reduction Act - which Senator Brown guided - we have a chance to give Americans that fair chance to succeed. We are grateful for Senator Brown and Congresswoman Kaptur's leadership in sending this letter," said Tim Brightbill, lead counsel for the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee.

Brown has long been a leader in fighting for domestic solar manufacturers, including First Solar, which employs more than 2,000 workers in Northwest Ohio. In May of 2023, Brown led his Senate colleagues in voting to reinstate duties on illegally dumped Chinese solar panels. Prior to the vote, he took to the Senate Floor to urge his colleagues to vote in favor of reinstating these duties.

A 2022 report from the United States Trade Representative on China's compliance with the World Trade Organization underscored that the underlying economic reasons and market conditions for why the tariffs were imposed have not changed. In addition, a March 2023 report from the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) showed that Section 301 and 232 tariffs led to significant increases in domestic production in the tariffed industries that were analyzed.

In May 2022, Brown originally called on President Biden to allow a Commerce Department investigation into whether Chinese companies were circumventing antidumping and countervailing duties to continue. The Administration heeded Brown's call and in December 2022, the Administration's investigation revealed that four leading Chinese solar-cell manufacturers circumvented U.S. tariffs by routing some of their operations through Southeast Asia. In March 2023, Brown urged President Biden to rescind the suspension of market-balancing tariffs on Chinese solar product importers in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam to level the playing field for American manufacturers and workers and give them the opportunity to better compete in the global economy. In August, the Department of Commerce issued a final determination confirming that Chinese solar panel producers - operating in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam - are circumventing U.S. trade law meant to protect American businesses and workers by routing their products through Southeast Asia.

The full letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Chairman Johanson and Secretary Raimondo:

We write in strong support of the antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) petitions filed by the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee (Alliance) to investigate unfair trade practices by primarily Chinese-owned companies operating in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam that are causing harm to the U.S. solar industry. We support the petitions against these entities - many of which have previously been found to have engaged in illegal dumping in violation of our nation's trade laws - to ensure America's solar workers have the chance to compete on a level playing field.

The Alliance, which includes Convalt Energy, First Solar, Hanwha-QCells, Meyer Burger Mission Solar, REC Silicon, and Swift Solar, has filed its petitions on behalf of the domestic solar manufacturing industry, which supports 34,000 workers and has the potential to add tens of thousands more good-paying, American jobs. Unfortunately, China has made it clear that it will do anything to stop American manufacturing from realizing its potential and is currently targeting the growing U.S. solar industry through the use of market-distorting trade practices, including illegal subsidies. Holding China accountable for its illegal trade practices will allow for the growth of a more diverse, and more secure, solar supply chain, here in the United States.

China has subsidized the construction of manufacturing facilities in other countries, particularly those within their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. These are Chinese-owned factories, operated by Chinese companies, making solar panels and cells with Chinese materials all with one goal: to circumvent U.S. trade law. By establishing facilities in third-party countries, Chinese companies can avoid targeted trade enforcement actions, which is why these petitions are so critical. Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam accounted for 84 percent of solar panel imports in the fourth quarter of 2023. This is a continuation of long-standing practice, albeit with different tactics, as it was these same countries that were home to the last Chinese efforts to evade enforcement of American trade law. This case also has the potential to set an important precedent for addressing China's anticompetitive practices across many industries.

Subsidization, dumping, and ultimately circumvention are the tools China utilizes to support production far in excess of market demands. Massive government subsidies allow Chinese solar manufacturers to develop overcapacity, decimating market dynamics. By dumping solar products into markets at artificially low prices, Chinese companies deny solar manufacturers in the U.S. the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.As a result of China's longstanding policies, solar is one of the "new three" strategic industries - which includes electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries - that the Chinese government has decided to dominate. Today, China's dominance of solar supply chains already represents a strategic vulnerability. Its solar industry, which has deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party, currently produces more than 90 percent of solar-grade polysilicon, controls more than 99 percent of the global production capacity for wafers, and disturbingly controls over 80 percent of global shipments across the solar supply chain.

China's dominance of the solar supply chain creates significant energy security risks, in addition to stifling domestic job growth and harming American manufacturing potential. This industry cannot reach its full potential in the U.S. if China's companies operate as a one-nation solar cartel. For the American solar manufacturing sector, holding China accountable for its illegal trade practices is of critical importance. Strong enforcement will allow for the growth of a more diverse, and more secure, solar supply chain, which minimizes the risks associated with relying on imports and keeps workers employed.

U.S. solar workers and manufacturers are ready to compete on a level playing field, but leaving China's cheating unaddressed puts thousands of American solar jobs and the domestic solar industry in jeopardy. Supporting the petitions filed by the Alliance helps hold China accountable and ensure all Americans and our allies benefit from a thriving U.S. solar manufacturing base. Careful consideration of all four countries in the petitions is a necessity, as a negative determination in one will lead Chinese-headquartered producers to shift production to that country. We support the Alliance's AD/CVD petitions to give the U.S. solar industry its chance to shine.

Sincerely,

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