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Another Point Of View

April 20, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 16

The Business Insights column “Victims of a Trade War” presents the reader with yet another example of a writer taking sides in a news story (C&EN, Feb. 9, page 19). What’s more, the author goes on to be selective in the facts presented, leaving out the other side of the story almost entirely. With subsidies to Chinese solar-cell manufacturers, the U.S.-based companies making the polysilicon used for solar-cell production and the companies installing solar panels may win, but any non-Chinese companies making solar cells will lose out.

This is the proper balance in reporting that was missing in your article. The author would have us believe that the U.S. Department of Commerce started the trade war with a randomly placed tariff, and for no rational reason.

This is simply not the case. The Commerce Department is justified in taking action against a trading partner that is engaging in marketplace-distorting activities and breaking rules that both parties agreed to at the World Trade Organization. To argue that Commerce made a mistake because China may retaliate and the situation escalate into a trade war is not the logic that should guide a response. It is not acceptable to let our trading partners sell their goods and services into our market at below cost.

Tariffs placed against such goods are likely to result in a more positive outcome than the author would have us believe. For instance, maybe more research will develop a solar cell that is higher yielding and thus more profitable. Unchecked subsidies mean this type of research will be slowed, if it takes place at all. The world will be stuck with an oversupply of solar panels using immature solar-cell technology. This was one of the key points made by the solar-cell companies that brought this trade dispute to the Commerce Department in the first place.

Andrew S. Thompson
Mountainside, N.J

Business Insights states that “the U.S. started the trade spat in 2012.” But is this accurate?

How has the solar-energy sector evolved since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001? Have there been other “trade spats” before 2012? Why is there a global oversupply of polysilicon? If the article had addressed these questions and provided a broader context—a description of events in the solar industry over the past several years leading up to the most recent Department of Commerce action—a clearer assessment of the current plant closing would be possible.

DuPont and Dow Corning must be thrilled that C&EN provided them a forum to bolster their case. The next time they meet with policy-makers they can point to this article in the most popular and influential magazine in the industry. Is C&EN a mouthpiece to serve the interests of DuPont and Dow Corning? Does the disclaimer that the views expressed are not those of ACS exempt C&EN from editorial oversight? Very disappointing.

Susan Vice
Mountainside, N.J



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