U.S.-China Solar Trade War: Economic and Political Implications of the 2012 and 2014 Antidumping Disputes

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Following the 2011 flood of Chinese solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, SolarWorld and a conglomerate of six unnamed U.S. solar cell and module manufacturers filed a lawsuit in October 2011 against Chinese producers alleging that they were receiving unfair government subsidies and were selling their products into the U.S. market for less than fair market value. The artificially low-priced solar products, SolarWorld explained, would materially harm the U.S. solar manufacturing industry, an industry that already was struggling. By mid-2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC) and U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) had imposed preliminary duties ranging from 31% to 250% on Chinese solar cells and the modules that contained them; ultimately, the agencies affirmed these duties in November 2012.

The dispute divided the U.S. solar industry. Manufacturers argued that the duties were necessary to protect U.S. manufacturing, jobs, and fair competition. Meanwhile, U.S. installers claimed that the duties would put the brakes on the installation sector and the many jobs it promised. Still others surmised that the duties would have little effect. After all, Chinese producers had an easy out: thanks to the solar cell loophole, they could simply produce modules with foreign solar cells and ship them into the U.S. market duty free.

This analysis explores how the antidumping dispute may have shaped the U.S. import market and the U.S. industry, including domestic PV manufacturers and installers. It finds that despite the solar cell loophole, the dispute may have created opportunities for emerging partners to enter (or re-enter) the U.S. market and, perhaps, increased the price of solar cells and modules for U.S. buyers. Any such effects, however, must be understood in the context of the industry as a whole: booming installation markets, changing policy, and rising new players. With the dispute still ongoing, many chapters likely remain untold.





Darby, Marta (2014). U.S.-China Solar Trade War: Economic and Political Implications of the 2012 and 2014 Antidumping Disputes. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9292.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.