China says US tariffs hurt clean energy bid

Workers inspect solar panels at a photovoltaic power station on a hill in Linyi, Shandong province, China August 11, 2018. [Reuters]

A US extension of tariffs on solar products distorts international trade and hinders the development of clean, low-emission energy, China’s commerce ministry said on Saturday.

President Joe Biden on Friday extended Trump-era tariffs on imported solar energy equipment for four years, though he eased the terms to exclude bifacial panels that generate power on both sides, which are dominant among big US projects.

Donald Trump imposed the tariffs on solar imports in 2018, using authority under section 201 of a 1974 trade law. The levies started at 30 per cent and declined to 15 per cent.

“The US government insisted on extending the section 201 measures despite strong opposition from related parties at home and abroad, and they not only do not help the healthy development of the domestic US industry, but also distort the normal order of international trade in photovoltaics as a new energy product,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

China expressed hope that the United States would take “concrete action” to facilitate free trade in new energy products and “contribute to the global development of a low greenhouse gas emission economy.”

President Biden’s decision represented a balancing act by his administration to meet the demands of two important political constituencies: union labour, which supports import restrictions to protect domestic jobs, and clean energy developers keen to access cheap overseas supplies.

The extension of the tariff exempts so-called bifacial panels, which can generate electricity on both sides and are favoured by large-scale developers, according to a senior administration official. 

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