Solar industry groups urge U.S., Europe, China to avert trade war


An employee inspects a solar panel on the production line at the Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. facility in Goodyear, Arizona U.S., on Monday, June 18, 2012. (Ken James/Bloomberg)

An international group of solar industry trade associations meeting in Shanghai last week has issued a joint declaration appealing to China, the European Union and the United States to avert a trade war and negotiate a settlement to disputes over solar panels, according to one person who attended the meeting.

The groups also urged the creation of a permanent inter-governmental committee, modeled on one in the semiconductor industry, to address solar competitiveness issues.

The appeal comes amid rising tension over EU and U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels. The United States imposed tariffs last year, and the EU recently imposed provisional duties averaging 47 percent on imports of Chinese-made solar panels.

Many U.S. companies favor a negotiated resolution, although U.S. firms have divergent interests. Companies that sell equipment and silicon to Chinese solar panel makers fear the effects of a trade war, but U.S. firms that install solar panels have benefited from low priced imports.

U.S. and European panel manufacturers alleged that Chinese panel makers were benefiting from Chinese government subsidies and were dumping their products at prices below cost.

Chinese panel makers have been struggling in the competitive oversupplied global market. Suntech, which led the world in solar panel sales in 2011, has been forced into bankruptcy and is negotiating a restructuring.

Steven Mufson covers the White House. Since joining The Post, he has covered economics, China, foreign policy and energy.
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