Lawmakers back SEIA efforts to end US-China solar standoff

SEIA’s recently published proposal aimed at ending the long-running solar trade dispute between the United States and China has won the support of several key lawmakers at both the state and federal levels, including the chairs of the U.S. Senate Finance and Budget committees.

SEIA released its proposal on Monday, quickly winning the support of U.S. Senator Patty Murray from the state of Washington, home to REC Silicon, which may be forced to lay off hundreds of employees if the U.S. and China fail to find a resolution. Murray also serves as chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

Fellow lawmakers that have since expressed support for the peace plan include U.S. Senators Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee chair, and John Tester, both of Montana, and Maria Cantwell of Washington as well as Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

"Support for our proposal is gaining momentum," said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. "We deeply appreciate the efforts of Governor Inslee and Senators Murray, Cantwell, Baucus and Tester. They recognize, like we do, that something has to be done to improve the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete fairly on an even playing field while also protecting American consumers from unfair price increases. Our proposal would benefit all affected parties."

Inslee added: "I am pleased to see this industry group put forward a creative solution aimed at ending these disagreements. I have spoken with numerous federal officials, including the U.S. Trade Representative and the White House, about the need to find a workable solution to these ongoing disagreements that will allow the Washington and American solar industries to continue their impressive growth."

Inslee said the SEIA proposal would help ensure that Chinese and American industries played by the rules without being burdened by unwarranted restrictions. "The growing solar industry is an important and innovative part of Washington’s economy and ongoing international trade disputes affecting the industry could have significant negative impacts on jobs and businesses in our state," he added.

In a joint statement, Baucus and Tester also applauded SEIA’s efforts. "Without a doubt, this dispute has had a harmful effect on jobs in the U.S. and undercut our competitiveness in critical high-tech industries. The best outcome for workers, manufacturers and consumers in Montana and across the country is to negotiate a settlement and bring the dispute to a close. We are ready to work with all parties to resolve this important matter."

Cantwell likewise welcomed what she said was "progress on ending this impasse," adding that a resolution would "allow us to get back to the work of creating clean energy jobs that get products to the marketplace that are focused on reducing CO2 emissions."

SolarWorld chief executive remains skeptical of Chinese companies

The SEIA plan has not won over everyone, however. Gordon Brinser, president of manufacturing for SolarWorld Industries America and leader of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), said, "While we appreciate the efforts of the Solar Energy Industries Association, we are highly skeptical of any settlement with China or Chinese companies given their history of predatory market and trade practices.

Brinser added that "SolarWorld fought and won trade cases against dumped and subsidized Chinese products only to see Chinese companies use any and all means to circumvent the orders and avoid the lawful payment of anti-dumping and countervailing duties. These trade orders against China will be in place for years to come. We have no intention of giving them up unless and until China’s unfair trade practices are stopped."