Biden unveils plan to counter China despite paving way for more Chinese solar imports
White House in June announced 24-month pause on tariffs aimed at protecting US solar industry
President Joe Biden pledged $200 billion over five years to counter China's global influence weeks after opening the door to more solar panel imports.
Biden said Sunday the U.S. would contribute the funds, via grants, federal money and private sector investment, as part of the so-called Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which will finance projects in the developing world. Other members of the G7 committed an additional $400 billion to the initiative, which is designed to counter China's growing financial influence worldwide.
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"This isn’t aid or charity; it’s an investment that will deliver returns for everyone, including the American people and the people of all our nations," the president said during a speech in Germany.
However, Biden announced on June 6 the U.S. would halt enforcement of 2012 tariffs aimed at curbing Chinese solar panel imports and bolstering the domestic solar industry. The White House said the 24-month pause would serve as a bridge, allowing developers to import cheap panels and meet U.S. clean energy goals.
Pro-tariff groups criticized the move, saying it paved a path for Chinese government-subsidized companies to corner the market and put U.S. competitors out of business. Chinese companies dominate the global solar industry, making the majority of the world's panels and components, according to BloombergNEF.
"Once again, the Biden administration is picking China’s government-subsidized solar manufacturers that use forced labor and coal-fired power plants over U.S. solar manufacturers and American workers," Michael Stumo, the CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, said in a statement.
"Instead of following U.S. law and holding China accountable for illegal trade activity, the Biden administration is giving China’s solar manufacturers a green light to continue circumventing [tariffs]," Stumo continued. "Equally concerning is the fact that the White House failed to consult a single American solar manufacturer on this disastrous decision."
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The Solar Energy Industries Association had lobbied for the White House action after a Commerce Department (DOC) probe into potential tariff violations caused imports to decline. The DOC's International Trade Administration announced in March it would investigate whether Chinese companies were routing solar materials destined for the U.S. through Southeast Asia to avoid duties.
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"Today’s announcement is about one country and one country alone, and it’s about the United States," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked whether the move was a handout to Chinese companies. "It is about the reliability of our power – of our power grid."
"It is about reducing costs for American families, and it’s about enabling domestic solar manufacturers to move forward with their projects," she added.
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.