Their View: Fighting back against China’s cheating

By Sen. Sherrod Brown
Contributing columnist

The brightest light of the American solar industry is Northwest Ohio. First Solar employs about 3,000 workers, and smaller local companies should be the beginning of a growing regional supply chain.

But China is deliberately doing all it can to stifle that growth. China illegally subsidizes industries they believe are key to global economic dominance, like solar. American solar manufacturers are fighting back, and I will do all I can to support them, pushing the Biden Administration to take this cheating seriously and do more to level the playing field for Ohio workers.

The Chinese government funds overcapacity and illegal dumping, flooding the global market with artificially cheap imports to kill off the entire industry in competitor countries.

It’s why for two years we have fought the Biden Administration’s misguided pause of tariffs on Chinese panels. That pause in tariffs has hurt companies like First Solar and set the industry back in the U.S., and it’s given China two years to put a plan in place to get around the tariffs now that the pause has ended.

In anticipation of the tariffs finally being reinstated, China is already executing the exact same scheme they run in the steel industry, routing their products through other countries in Southeast Asia and changing supply chains to get around tariffs.

We have to fight back against their cheating.

A coalition of leading American solar manufacturers, including First Solar, has filed a set of what are known as “antidumping and countervailing duty petitions” with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), against Chinese companies operating in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The ITC and the Commerce Department will have to conduct independent investigations, and if they rule in favor of the American companies – as we believe the overwhelming evidence will show that they should – it will mean additional trade enforcement actions against the Chinese companies to level the playing field for Ohio workers.

I’ve testified many times for the Ohio steel industry and Ohio washing machine makers and so many others. We’re calling on the ITC and the Commerce Department to support the American solar industry and its workers in these cases.

Just this week, the ITC issued its first ruling in this case, known as a “preliminary determination.” The commission members unanimously agreed with the American petitioners, paving the way for future enforcement actions.

We hear a lot lately from politicians of both parties about supporting American manufacturers. If they want to follow through on their promises, investments aren’t enough. We have to stand up to the American solar industry’s biggest threat: China.

American manufacturers can’t expand and scale up production if they’re constantly dealing with a flood of illegally-subsidized imports.

Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Sidney Daily News or its owner AIM Media Midwest.