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U.S. Imposes Tariffs On Chinese Solar Cells 345

Posted by Soulskill
from the sunshine-of-your-love dept.
New submitter kimtysirt sends this excerpt from a Bloomberg report about U.S. tariffs for Chinese solar panels: "The U.S. yesterday imposed tariffs of as much as 250 percent on Chinese-made solar cells to aid domestic manufacturers beset by foreign competition, though critics said the decision may end up raising prices and hurting the U.S. renewable energy industry. The U.S. Commerce Department ruled that Chinese manufacturers sold cells in the U.S. at prices below the cost of production and announced preliminary antidumping duties ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent, depending on the manufacturer. China criticized the action, saying the U.S. is hurting itself and cooperation between the world’s two largest economies. The decision is meant to provide a boost to the U.S. solar manufacturing industry, where four companies filed for bankruptcy in the past year."
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U.S. Imposes Tariffs On Chinese Solar Cells

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:32AM (#40040207)

    But only because they were already artificially low, with China selling those things below cost just to gain market dominance. Hell, even with this, they'll STILL be artificially low, with the U.S. heavily subsidizing the whole industry. The fact is that solar power is just not that economical on its own (and IMHO is a pipe dream anyway, but that's another post). But seeing as the U.S. still subsidizes the wildly profitable coal and oil industries (and don't get me started on agricultural subsidies), I guess turnabout is fair play.

    And before anyone jumps up to defend the free market here, you may want to keep in mind that a level playing field (with no protectionism) is great if you're a Chinese worker making $1 an hour--not so fucking great if you're an American or European worker getting paid many times that. You go ahead and compete in the "free market" with people willing to work for a fraction of your salary and just see what happens to your beloved first-world living standard.

    • by dintech (998802) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:42AM (#40040287)

      Devil's advocate: Maybe they should take it further and tax all products to the equivalent of government subsidies by foreign entities. Heavily subsiding is a practice that should be discouraged, irrespective of the product. While they're at it, they can stop local subsiding of things like high fructose corn syrup too.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        The Devil would have enough sense to understand the things he talks about before making himself look stupid.

        The fact that you want to stop Corn Subsidies tells me you really have a headline only knowledge of these topics.

        • by dintech (998802) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:04AM (#40040505)

          I thought this [wikipedia.org] was common knowledge:

          HFCS is cheaper in the United States as a result of a combination of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs and quotas.[19] Since the mid 1990s, the United States federal government has subsidized corn growers by $40 billion.[20][21]

          Maybe it would help if you read beyond one or two of those headlines you're going on about.

          • by Solandri (704621) on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:48PM (#40043463)
            The thing is, corn isn't subsidized because the government wants cheap HFCS. It's subsidized because the government wants overproduction of food so we won't have people going hungry if there's a bunch of crop failures like in the 1930s. Cheap HFCS is merely a side effect ("gee, what can we do with all this excess corn?"). You can make completely valid and compelling arguments against cheap HFCS, but they won't get you anywhere because you're cherry-picking the most unfavorable aspect of corn subsidies to try to make them look bad. You're not addressing the real issue. The starvation argument will win out every time simply because it's more important. If you want to end corn subsidies, you need to address it from the starvation/crop failure angle.
        • by tmosley (996283)
          "If you disagree with me, then you are uneducated"

          lol
      • How do you calculate the subsides? We are not talking about direct subsides but indirect.

        When a "private" bank (where the state owns shares and a party member sits on the board) offers a loan, how do you determine if it's cheap or just competitive? When the state has lax pollution controls, is that because they are favoring the industry or because they have their NIMBYs under control?

        Or, my favorite example, Boeing vs.Airbus. Airbus has gotten launch loans - loans they did not have to repay if they airplane

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Cost of contracts for military hardware awarded (as F-35 project shows, these are essentially risk free grants, not even loans and will be increased if initial designs fail until they don't), OR cost of RD if it was done independently (RD costs are most definitely found on company books).

          Both are likely to eclipse "risk free" airbus loans by a wide margin.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Maybe the rest of the world should do the same. How much subsidy have US car makes had?

    • by LordNicholas (2174126) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:42AM (#40040293)

      As always seems to happen during debates around trade tariffs and regulation, you're considering only one side of the equation (American workers) and not the other (American consumers). The majority of us who are not workers manufacturing solar cells benefit greatly from having a supply of cheap, foreign-made solar cells rather than expensive, domestic-made cells, which on the whole balances out the negative impact on American workers.

      Our first world living standard is exactly because of these kinds of arrangements, not despite them.

      You are correct in pointing out that "dumping" (selling solar cells below the cost of manufacturing them) is a true market distortion and should generally be discouraged, but I think it's naive to pretend that these tariffs are based on economics and not political pressures.

      • by mooingyak (720677)

        As always seems to happen during debates around trade tariffs and regulation, you're considering only one side of the equation (American workers) and not the other (American consumers). The majority of us who are not workers manufacturing solar cells benefit greatly from having a supply of cheap, foreign-made solar cells rather than expensive, domestic-made cells, which on the whole balances out the negative impact on American workers.

        In the short term. When there's no competition left, the Chinese will stop selling them below cost.

        • And they'll be able to sell them no higher than the market rate, which will be higher than cost plus a slim profit margin, just like any other product on earth. Raise the price too much and China's comparative advantage is lost, and Vietnam or India or maybe even the USA swoops in and sells them for less. Eventually we settle on the truest, cheapest realistic price for the product.

          Guys, this is basic economics.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        No, these tariffs are economical. Getting something from overseas because it's cheaper doesn't actually help the American consumer. Unfortuantly the American consumer is short sighted and selfish. So when they have their cheap solar cells, but no jobs the can't figure out why.

        China is a bad player.

      • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:45AM (#40041025)

        You're not considering history and what we should already know. When you've allowed polluting, authoritarian, near-slave driving industries in some other country to drive your industries (with human, worker, and environmental safeguards in place) out of business, what are you left with? Either no industry, or you now have to abandon human, worker, and environmental safeguards to compete. We don't want to play that game.

    • All they are doing is following the Walmart business model in a larger scale.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:45AM (#40040317) Homepage Journal

      And before anyone jumps up to defend the free market here, you may want to keep in mind that a level playing field (with no protectionism) is great if you're a Chinese worker making $1 an hour--not so fucking great if you're an American or European worker getting paid many times that. You go ahead and compete in the "free market" with people willing to work for a fraction of your salary and just see what happens to your beloved first-world living standard.

      I would hope that anyone commenting here realizes that when it comes to China, "free market" is not even on the spectrum of economic principles. Currency manipulation that puts EVERYTHING in the world's second largest economy at a continuously under-priced advantage is about as close to the "free market" as North Korea is to joining the UN.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You go ahead and compete in the "free market" with people willing to work for a fraction of your salary and just see what happens to your beloved first-world living standard.

      You're failing to make a comparison between what is seen (lost US jobs) and what is unseen (improved standard of living for everyone in the country because of cheaper energy-related goods). You're angry that other people might out-compete you in the job market, so in essence you want the government to use force to make sure that solar

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:50AM (#40040357)

        So manipulating your currency and selling products at a loss is out competing?

        Are you misinformed or insane? The reason the GP quoted free market, is because when dealing with China there is never a free market, they don't play fair with their currency to being with.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Myopic (18616) *

          Misinformed, not insane. Most of these free-market types are purposely self-deluded, although a small number are genuinely dumb. They're not stupid per se, it's rather that they ignore most of reality in order to focus on a tiny sliver of reality which, when misconstrued to extreme lengths, results in Libertariansim.

          Let me be clear that this post is flamebait, not trolling. Trolling is when you say things that aren't true; flamebait is when you say things that aren't popular.

        • "Manipulation of their currency" in this case is pegging the yuan to the dollar, meaning they print yuan and use it to buy dollars, which they then convert into US treasuries. In practical terms, this means that China is taking upon themselves the inflation that we would otherwise see due to our massive budget deficit, and as a bonus we get cheap goods. This is supported pretty heavily by the inflation data for both of our countries.

          Far from taking advantage of us, we're taking advantage of them.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        you would only have a point on an even playing field, it is not an even playing field.

        China government is forcing the prices down artificially. This isn't competition. It's paying to control a market for long term advantages.

        Competing in a manner where there are fewer and fewer jobs in the US is a spiral down, not up.

        But hey, if another country stealing are RnD, then putting out a product below cost, flooding the market and destroying are industry is 'competing', then you are an idiot.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      If I can't have a free market, I'll settle for a fair one. Because even without this regulation we are not in a free market, as the companies dumping these goods are being supported and propped up by the Chinese government. Free market means no interference. Subsidies are interference and therefore NOT a free market. And these companies are definitely being subsidized by the Chinese government. This kind of behavior has been rampant from them for years.

      And I really love the comment by the Chinese that

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Myopic (18616) *

        Would you really want a free market if you could have one? A free market is a market with zero regulations or taxes. Zero. Do you really want zero regulations? You can't even think of one single regulation you favor? If you can think of even one single regulation or tax that you favor, then what you want is not a free market, but a regulated market. Unfortunately, that then requires you to do the hard work of applying reason and subtle thought to the question of which regulations you favor, denying the oppo

        • Zero. Do you really want zero regulations?

          Do you really want so many that only a handful of giant companies can actually work in the market, so many that no small business can ever start?

          Because that is the other side of that coin.

          You call for "subtle thought" while you apply the hammer of only considering "zero regulations" without thought to what happens when a market is over-regulated.

          A truly free market is indeed preferable to a vastly over-regulated one, because at least the individual can enter it.

        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:33AM (#40040847) Journal

          A free market is a market with zero regulations or taxes. Zero.

          "Free market" in the sense of a market with no rules, is an oxymoron. A "market" IS a set of rules/regulations for trade, the most basic of these being property rights, it's paradoxical nonsense to want a set of rules for trade that has no rules. The "free" in free market actually means anyone is free to participate in the market povided they play by the rules. I don't understand why such a large number of people in the US have trouble understanding the concept, they use it every day, no?

          • by Myopic (18616) * on Friday May 18, 2012 @10:18AM (#40041433)

            A free market is a market with zero regulation and zero taxes, but almost everyone who promotes "free markets" doesn't mean it that way -- including you. They mean they want an open, transparent, competitive marketplace. That's nice and all, but it's not the definition of a free market, and more to the point it's not the definition used by the people who are actually implementing policy. There is an incredibly tiny minority of ultra-rich industrialist ideologues who are trying to achieve REAL free markets, with zero regulations, and they are using as patsies, as fools, people like you, who bite on the mantra of a "free" market, without understanding what a free market is. If you don't want zero regulations, which it sounds like you don't, then let me be clear: you are being used unwittingly to promote a policy with which you do not agree.

    • The fact is that solar power is just not that economical on its own

      So? Neither is train travel, air travel, or highway construction. A good set of American made solar panels have a life expectancy of 20 years. That's a good investment in my mind, especially if we can hold off building new power plants.

      Any big change in civilization comes at a cost that's rarely profitable at first, but it's the right thing to do.

      The Chinese we're trying to undermine U.S. manufacturing by dumping panels below cost,

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Those lifetimes are for 75% of output if you are willing to live with 50% output you can probably double or triple that lifetime estimate. It only becomes a question of if the cost of new panels is worth more power on the same area.

    • Yes the low labor cost debate...
      However the United States is much better as improving efficiency in the process. So one worker can do the work of many low wage workers. Now if China is selling things below cost then that is bigger issue, because then we are producing optimally, however the Chinese government is producing sub-optimally, in an attempt to monopolize the market.

      While Labor cost is a big expense, it isn't the only one, and isn't normally the key factor. We are seeing a lot of In sourcing happe

    • You go ahead and compete in the "free market" with people forced under penalty of imprisonment / violence against family members to work for a fraction of your salary and just see what happens to your beloved first-world living standard.

      FTFY. Result is the same, though.

      This is free market economics at its best; We buy the shit they make, they keep fucking over the people making that shit.

      Stop buying their shit.

    • by Rostin (691447)

      And before anyone jumps up to defend the free market here, you may want to keep in mind that a level playing field (with no protectionism) is great if you're a Chinese worker making $1 an hour--not so fucking great if you're an American or European worker getting paid many times that. You go ahead and compete in the "free market" with people willing to work for a fraction of your salary and just see what happens to your beloved first-world living standard.

      It's also great if you're an American who wants to buy solar cells. Or a dock worker. Or someone who works in the import-export business. Or a solar cell installer. Why do workers in solar cell manufacturing deserve more consideration than everyone else who will be negatively affected? Proponents of tariffs seem to always forget that the economic consequences of government mandated ineffiency go beyond what they intended. If you really insist upon seeing this as a zero-sum, us-vs-them kind of thing wi

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:38AM (#40040261) Homepage

    When US subsidize solar, it good [google.com].

    When China subsidize solar, it bad.

  • This is good news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tastecicles (1153671) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:47AM (#40040333)

    As someone who knows what foreign manufacturing does to local economy (UK based and lived through the death of Sheffield Steel and British Coal), this is the only fix - to impose tariffs on foreign made goods, because we do have the technology and infrastructure to make this stuff ourselves; the only thing we're doing by outsourcing is PUTTING PEOPLE OUT OF WORK. This (taxing foreign goods) stimulates the local economy; hands up those who think this is in any way bad??

    I would do the same thing to fix the auto industry (and raw materials eg refined aluminium and steel/alloys). Why? Because we've outsourced to Japan and China, they're getting rich selling us shitty cars, while our local auto industry (which used to make quality cars most of which still run after 20, 30, 40 or even 50+ years! Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Leyland, Rover...) has died a death or sold out to BMW who get most of their coachwork from... CHINA!

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Quality British cars?
      Have you ever owned a Jag? They only run after 2 months because of the time they spend in the shop. They only reason you see them 50 years later is because of their value making it reasonable to keep repairing them.

      Any toyota made today is a better car than any jag made 20 years ago. Leyland was a joke, is a joke and forever will be a joke. I love British cars, but reliability is not their strong suit.

    • by b0bby (201198)

      we've outsourced to Japan and China, they're getting rich selling us shitty cars, while our local auto industry (which used to make quality cars most of which still run after 20, 30, 40 or even 50+ years! Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Leyland, Rover...) has died a death

      Were you driving the same British cars the rest of us were? I have a 1970 Norton Commando; the quality of manufacturing on that bike is abysmal, down to the visibly off-center bore on one of the cylinders. That's not to mention the fact that the design was grossly outdated by 1970, but the management was too complacent to spend on a decent drivetrain which wouldn't pour oil out of every seam. There's a reason Honda ate their lunch, and it's not because they were selling crap...

      And even today, I know someone

    • Wow, really? When you put a tariff on something it's primary effect is to raise the price of goods and services in your country. Tariffs on coal and steel would literally make everything in your country more expensive and lower the standard of living for everyone in your country. That is bad. The raised costs of goods and services in your country would also hurt your other exports. It also encourages other countries to put tariffs on your goods and services which hurts your exports even more, costs loc
    • by vmlemon (1203598)
      It might sound counter-productive (and maybe even hypocritical) - but if you want a British-built car (or at least a European-built one), then why not buy a new Honda (http://www.honda.co.uk/cars/campaigns/2011/madeinbritain/ says that they're built in Swindon), a new Nissan (made in Sunderland), or a new Ford (built in Dagenham)? After all, many of their European/UK-market models are either built by British people in plants based in England, or at least built in plants in the rest of Europe by native worke
  • Hyopcrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:50AM (#40040355)
    China engages in all kinds of economic protectionism including artificially manipulating its currency not to mention import tariffs. So, by leveling these accusations at the United States, they sound awfully stale and hollow.
  • Whew! Doesn't that just take a load off all our minds?

    For a while there, it looked like solar had finally reached a price where the mainstream could realistically afford them and the electricity savings would eventually pay back the initial investment. Won't someone think of all the poor, poor coal-fired power plants in the midwest? I mean, if everyone had a solar array on their roof (perhaps even enforced by building codes), Dear Lord! We might manage to get by purely with some sort of socialist-insp
    • As would that other failed state Germany.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Failed state?
        With a higher per capita GDP than the USA, longer life expectancy and similar laws. Care to explain?

    • by Myopic (18616) * on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:08AM (#40040547)

      What you just said is tantamount to saying that in 1969, the "price" of a trip to the moon finally reached a price where the mainstream could realistically afford a ticket, because astronauts didn't pay for the ride.

      If a government pays a price for something, then that nullifies the claim that the thing has become affordable. China is paying for your solar cells. Now, it might be either good or bad for China to be paying for your solar cells, but let's not pretend that the solar cells are actually cheap.

      • by pla (258480)
        If a government pays a price for something, then that nullifies the claim that the thing has become affordable. China is paying for your solar cells. Now, it might be either good or bad for China to be paying for your solar cells, but let's not pretend that the solar cells are actually cheap.

        Seriously? If the Chinese government wants to subsidize US energy independence - Fucking LET them!
  • by peppepz (1311345) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:55AM (#40040411)
    Unless the Americans want to embrace the life style of the Chinese workers, they need to resort to protectionism. There can be no competition when the players do not follow the same rules. People will have to spend a bit more to buy solar cells, but I'd see that extra money as an investment, e.g. to keep the competences needed to build them inside the country.
  • by rocker_wannabe (673157) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:03AM (#40040499)

    Companies go on and on about the beauty of the "free market system" until it doesn't work for them. The U.S. government rushes in to help companies stay competitive but doesn't do much to help our workforce stay competitive. Helping U.S. companies does not help U.S. workers like it once did. Most companies depend on labor outside the U.S. to some extent. Why can't they put a tax on outsourced labor to make U.S. wage rates competitive?

    I've never seen a U.S. congress that cared less about it's people than this one. The message from out government is if you can't figure out how to make a livable wage in this recession then just disappear so we don't have to deal with you. The real "kick in the head" is that if I didn't have to support our bloated local, state and federal government, deal with reams of regulations, and spend large amounts of money on insurance to protect me from a litigious society then I could be competitive with the rest of the world.

    • The "free market" doesn't work for anyone except the nebulous ether filled will global corporations who can flutter about from nation to nation as conditions change.

  • Anywhere. In almost every country, politicians are purchased by local business interests and serve as little more than "useful idiots" in the service of the wealthy. That's the world as it is, not as you learned it in civics class.

  • It's 250% only on companies which will start selling to US newly. Existing companies will pay only 31% tariff.

  • by bug1 (96678) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:38AM (#40040921)

    Damn these pesky chinnese customers and the superior products...

    How dare they supply us with the means to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, help us get energy security, reduce our carbon footprint, do it cheaper than we can do it for ourselves, and probably lend us the money to do it.

    They must be stopped.

  • by doston (2372830) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:43AM (#40040983)
    If the US was really interested in protecting an American industry, they could have chosen any number of industries that have been destroyed by foreign competition. Rather than protecting small solar companies, they're protecting dirty US energy companies. "Critics (people who understand the industry) say the decision may end up raising prices and hurting the U.S. renewable energy industry." Yeah, a small price to pay to keep your donors in the oil, natural gas and coal industries happy.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:44AM (#40040985)

    In general they whack us with 10x the import tariff we apply to them - that is the problem. They're exporting their unemployment to the US, because if you have 400M unemployed young men running around, revolution-y things start happening.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:44AM (#40041011) Homepage

    This sounds pretty good on the surface - the US government finally doing something that might positively effect the economy and workers.

    Unfortunately, there is this thing the US belongs to called the WTO. And China is also a member. So, China will complain to the WTO which is all about free, tariff-free trade. WTO will come back with instructions to the US that these tariffs must be removed ... or else. The "or else" part is pretty much that China will introduce their own tariffs on the few US goods imported into China - but also that other countries will be enabled to also tariff US produced goods far in excess of what they are already.

    So the tariff will be removed in a couple of months at most. We all signed on to the WTO and it is an organization that is clearly focused on a race to the bottom. All manufacturing will be in third-world countries with low, low, low labor and production costs. And the sooner the US population understands that the better.

    We have seen the total number of skilled workers employed in the US drop in the last five years or so but it has been on the decline for some time now. Everyone is waiting for the government to "do something" to bring back skilled worker jobs so the middle class can recover and once again spend money on US-produced goods and services. Well, it isn't happening. Companies that employed 10 people doing a particular job have found they can get the job done with four people now. Between just pushing those four people harder and a lessening of demand, four are all that is needed. The other six jobs aren't coming back, not in any realistic time frame. We are looking at what the government says is 8% unemployment but in reality it is more like 30% - when you count the people that are working part-time as Walmart greeters becase there is nothing else. The government cannot force companies to hire back the workers they shed because they simply are not needed. The government cannot create new companies to employ people, unless you really want the WPA and CCC.

  • by Immerman (2627577) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:51AM (#40041083)

    So, we let subsidized foreign competition drive Solyndra and others to the point where recovery would be virtually impossible, then step in with tariffs that will drive the price of solar up high enough that they would have provided a cost-effective alternative if they hadn't you know, already gone bankrupt. While I agree that in principle the tariffs are a good idea, if I could find my tinfoil hat I'd wonder about established fossil energy interests playing a roll in the timing. Please, somebody tell me there are at least a handful of other innovators this will help out in the short term so I can feel like my government isn't a complete tool.

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