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China takes US to WTO on solar tariffs

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-08 12:00

The Chinese mainland and the European Union are the latest to seek compensation for the US tariffs on solar panels by filing cases with the Geneva-based World Trade Organization.

Beijing has sent Washington a demand for talks on compensation for the new US tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines, Reuters reported, quoting WTO filings on Tuesday.

The Chinese mainland said it was asserting its right as a major exporter to demand compensation, and said it believed the US measures broke numerous WTO rules.

A WTO filing on Wednesday showed that the EU also sent the US a demand for talks on the compensation as a result of the steep tariffs on solar panels, according to Reuters.

The EU request said Germany was a major exporter and cited WTO rules under which it could demand compensation.

The latest moves by the Chinese mainland and EU came just days after similar steps taken by Taiwan and South Korea.

US President Donald Trump on Jan 23 signed into law a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels as a way to protect US jobs. The White House claimed that increased foreign imports of washers and solar cells and modules are a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers.

The move immediately drew protests from the US solar energy industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a US national trade association for the industry, said the decision would instead kill 23,000 US jobs this year, including many in manufacturing, and it will result in the delay or cancellation of billions in solar investments.

US lawmakers, such as Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, also decried the tariffs as a tax on US consumers.

David Dollar, a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center of the Brookings Institution, said on Wednesday that filing the WTO cases does give China a moral high ground.

"By staying within the WTO framework, that's consistent with the way international trade is regulated, and it does give a high ground that they are basically following the rules," he said of the Chinese mainland and several others that have filed the WTO cases over the US solar panel tariffs. But he said the US so far has been following the rules, too.

Dollar, a former US Treasury emissary in Beijing, said the Trump administration has been following former President Barack Obama's playbook, doing something very small and product specific.

"China has always responded reciprocally," he said of the WTO filing and Chinese investigation announced this week on US sorghum exports to China.


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