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Congress Must Stand Up to China’s Illegal Solar Trade (Opinion)

April 26, 2023

Democrats will soon have an opportunity to hold China accountable for illegal trade violations harming American manufacturers and workers. On Friday, the House will vote on bipartisan legislation using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the Biden administration’s Solar Emergency Declaration.

This harmful rule, in effect until June 2024, protects Chinese solar manufacturers even though the U.S. Commerce Department recently determined that they are illegally evading tariffs.

Lawmakers opposing the solar CRA will likely be criticized as “soft on China”—and a recent Morning Consult poll shows voters agree: 80% of likely voters, including 76% of Democrats and 77% of Independents, are concerned that the Solar Emergency Declaration protects Chinese solar manufacturers illegally avoiding tariffs. (Poll consisted of 1,815 likely voters.)

Additionally, a strong majority of voters support Congress passing the solar CRA.

Turning a Blind Eye

Democrats have long defended American workers against illegal trade activity and offshoring of jobs by multinational corporations.

Unfortunately, some lawmakers have been led to believe they should oppose the solar CRA on the grounds of addressing climate change.

The AFL-CIO, however, said in October 2021 that “we do not believe that we need to accept false choices between protecting our common future and protecting the human rights of workers wherever we may be. We can and must do both.”

They are exactly right. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credits for domestic solar production are so critical. Already, the credits have unleashed a tidal wave of investment right here in America.

The Biden administration has claimed it is necessary to turn a blind eye to illegal Chinese trade activity and suspend tariffs because a “temporary bridge” is needed to keep up with demand.

In reality, the administration’s Solar Emergency Declaration is a “get out of jail free card” for China. Giving China the next two years of tariff-free solar imports will essentially allow them to permanently consolidate their market status in the United States. Commerce’s preliminary determination allows China to avoid future tariffs by constructing wafer facilities outside of China—something the Chinese are doing right now. It takes roughly 18 months to build a wafer facility, which is why the Biden administration chose to suspend tariffs for two years. 

Other opponents of the solar CRA, led by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)—which is funded by and represents Chinese solar manufacturers—have spread misinformation about the bipartisan effort. They claim it would increase prices, freeze the domestic solar industry and cost American jobs.

The facts say otherwise.

Tariffs Are Not New

Tariffs have been imposed on Chinese solar imports for more than a decade without increasing the cost of solar or slowing deployment. Even SEIA acknowledges “solar energy in the United States is booming” and that “growth in solar is led by falling prices.”

The facts are clear: China is illegally violating U.S. trade law and the Solar Emergency Declaration protects them. Democrats and Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee are right to support the solar CRA to repeal this rule.

Friday’s vote is about standing up for the rule of law and American workers and manufacturers in the solar industry. Congress cannot sit idly by and fail to respond to attacks on American industries and workers by any administration—regardless of party.

Nick Iacovella is senior vice president, public affairs and communications, for the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a bipartisan organization representing exclusively domestic producers across many sectors of the U.S. economy. Twitter: @nickiacovella

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