U.S. Senator to Obama: Hike Tariffs on Chinese Panels

Just hours before President Obama was to unveil a jobs package to address America’s stagnant employment figures, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon called for the president to implement policies that would address China’s dominance in solar manufacturing.

In a letter to Obama, Wyden linked dependence on foreign oil with reliance on solar panels made in China, and said that the president had it within his authority to implement tariffs that would drive developers to buy domestically made solar panels.

The letter comes on the heels of high-profile bankruptcies of American companies Evergreen Solar and Solyndra, both of which failed despite heavy government support. In both cases, an inability to compete with prices of Chinese panels was cited as a critical factor. Wyden represents Oregon, which is the American manufacturing home to German giant SolarWorld.

According to Wyden, U.S. imports of Chinese solar panels grew by 240 percent over last year, and the number of imports surged nearly 1,600 percent  between 2006 and 2010. However, a recent report released by GTM Research and SEIA determined that the U.S. was a net solar exporter to China in 2010.

Regardless, Wyden believes prices of panels coming out of China may be subject to a stipulation in the World Trade Organization Trade Act, which states that tariffs can be placed on imports as a safeguard to practices that may undermine the U.S. economy.

“Unless the U.S. takes aggressive action to combat the import surge of Chinese solar panels and the unfair trade practices that China employs, our efforts to facilitate the creation of the new jobs our economy needs will be substantially undermined,” wrote Wyden.

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