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Biden’s Mixed Signals On Chinese Solar Meet Bipartisan Pushback

Biden’s Mixed Signals on Chinese Solar Meet Bipartisan Pushback

Biden’s Mixed Signals on Chinese Solar Meet Bipartisan Pushback

Women work at a subsidiary of Longi, a major solar panel manufacturer, in Taizhou in east China’s Jiangsu province, December 15, 2022. Last June, after extensive lobbying by solar installers and domestic producers reliant on Chinese supply chains, President Biden issued a “ Solar Declaration of Emergency ” order. Biden’s order countermanded a pending Commerce Department investigation on illegal Chinese circumvention of anti-dumping tariffs, and gave Chinese solar panels a two-year waiver from tariffs otherwise required by U.S. law. The Commerce Department went ahead with the investigation and found that China, as alleged, was indeed moving production offshore to Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, using made-in-China parts, to evade U.S. tariffs. But Biden’s order remains in effect for two years, allowing these panels to enter the U.S. tariff-free. Now, a large bipartisan group led by Democrat Dan Kildee of Michigan and five others has introduced a resolution to reverse Biden’s order under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to reverse a federal rule by a simple majority. The others are Bill Posey (R-FL), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Bob Latta (R-OH), Terri Sewell (D-AL), and Garret Graves (R-LA). A CRA resolution requires only a simple majority, but is subject to a presidential veto. Kildee claims that he has a veto-proof majority in the House, but the Senate could be rougher going. At the very least, this is a major embarrassment for Biden, as his administration seeks to reduce dependence on Chinese supply chains. Biden’s order also violates the intent of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. As the Prospect ’s David Dayen has previously reported , the moving force behind Biden’s order was the Solar Energy Industries Association, an ostensibly domestic lobbying group whose members include several Chinese-controlled companies as well as U.S. companies heavily reliant on Chinese inputs. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that China is considering a ban on exports of the technology used to make solar wafers; China dominates global supply with 97 percent market share. It’s another reason to accelerate reshoring of solar supply chains. Today’s Wall Street Journal published an investigative piece showing that China’s top nuclear weapons research institute was able to circumvent the long-standing ban on exports of the most advanced U.S.-produced or -designed semiconductors, purchasing chips made by Intel and Nvidia, presumably from third-party sources. Export controls are hard to enforce. By comparison, enforcing tariffs on sanctioned imports is relatively easy—if the president of the United States is serious about heroic efforts to advance domestic supply chains and doesn’t undermine his own policy.

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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