Solar panels caught in trade dispute between United States and China

Much has been said in the U.S. media about the deluge of cheap solar power products in global energy markets sold by businesses in China. Less expensive products have made it nearly impossible for American firms to sell their own renewable energy panels. Until recently, the Obama administration has hesitated to react in a substantial way.

Today, however, the U.S. Department of Commerce said that it was imposing duties on a range of Chinese-made solar products in a bid to maintain the competitiveness of American manufacturing companies. According to the New York Times, tariffs ranging between 24 percent and 36 percent are being levied on panels, conductors and other mechanical equipment that is imported into the United States.

Known collectively as "anti-dumping tariffs", these charges are expected to bring prices on Chinese goods more in line with those produced in the U.S. Unlike American companies, Chinese solar equipment producers enjoy a number of subsidies and government support programs that encourage them to produce large quantities of machinery.

However, economists and industry experts fear that this action could spark a wider trade war, which neither country would want during a period of sustained economic fragility. Yet some of the organizations that could be impacted by the tariffs have already moved to avoid them altogether. Forbes Magazine reported today that several Chinese companies, including firms such as Suntech and Trina Solar, have moved to their manufacturing facilities to other countries in order to avoid paying the required levies.

The action taken by the Obama administration could impact the affordability and deployability of solar panel technology in the United States. will continue to report on the situation as it develops.

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