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China says US solar probe reflects protectionism

BEIJING (AP) — China criticized a U.S. decision to investigate whether Chinese companies are harming the American solar panel industry, saying it was made without sufficient evidence and highlights a strong U.S. tendency for protectionism.

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted Friday to investigate a complaint by seven U.S. solar companies that Chinese competitors are selling solar products on global markets at unfairly low prices.

The vote does not impose any penalties but says there is reason to believe that Chinese imports harm or threaten to harm the U.S. solar panel industry.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement late Saturday that the decision was made without sufficient evidence showing the U.S. industry had been harmed and did not take into account Chinese companies’ arguments or opposition from U.S. industries and other affected groups.

“China is deeply concerned about the decision, which does not tally with facts and highlights the United States’ strong tendency for trade protectionism,” it said on its website.

The statement said China hopes the U.S. will objectively analyze why some U.S. solar panel companies lack competitiveness.

“The United States should avoid abusing trade remedies which will affect bilateral trade and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and U.S. enterprises in the new energy sector,” it said.

The companies that filed the October complaint said massive subsidies by the Chinese government enable Chinese producers to drive out U.S. competition, and asked for tough trade penalties on Chinese solar imports.

The case has caused a split in the solar industry, with some U.S. companies saying imports of Chinese solar panels have lowered prices, helping consumers and promoting rapid growth of the industry.

Solar and other renewable energy technology has emerged as an irritant in U.S.-Chinese trade. The two governments have pledged to cooperate in development but accuse each other of violating free-trade pledges by subsidizing their own manufacturers.

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