Wyden Letter to the Editor: China’s subsidy of solar panels

(Note: this letter was originally published in the Washington Post on October 28, 2012)

A federal investigation has proved that China is subsidizing its solar panels and dumping those panels in the U.S. market. The Oct. 19 editorial “A cloud on trade” said there’s a good reason to let China continue to do this. I disagree.

World trade is governed by well-defined rules. Allowing China to break those rules at the whim of certain lobbying groups would turn the rules-based trading system into one based on politics. The world tried that system before. It failed. Under that system, trade was neither free nor fair, to the detriment of the United States and global economy.

Failure to address China’s practices will undercut U.S. innovation. It will also make it more difficult for the United States to act against China’s cheating in other areas on everything from the manipulation of its currency to its export restraints on resources such as rare earth minerals.

China has been clear that it is seeking to be a dominant provider of the world’s solar panels, and it is accomplishing this by breaking the rules. To accept these actions because it is helpful to consumers (for now) is to accept a world in which China chooses the industries it wishes to dominate and the

United States is forced to take what’s left. How long after the last U.S. solar manufacturer has shut its doors will China wait to use its monopoly power to raise prices for U.S. consumers?

Ron Wyden, Washington

The writer, a Democrat from Oregon, is a member of the U.S. Senate.