In a U.S.-China trade war, Taiwan faces the risk of getting caught up in the crossfire.
As Taiwan’s legislature prepares to review the controversial Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement with China next month, apprehensions over the island’s growing economic reliance on China continue to rise. A recent anti-dumping case initiated by a U.S. trade commission, and subsequent decisions on legal representation, highlight the dangers — economic and political — that can arise from a further integration of the two economies.
The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) on February 14 said it had reason to believe that Chinese solar panel companies have used solar cell components built by a third party — Taiwanese firms — to circumvent heavy anti-dumping duties imposed on China in late 2012. U.S.-based SolarWorld Industries America, a subsidiary of the German firm SolarWorld AG, filed the initial complaint in 2012, which resulted in countervailing tariffs averaging 31 percent against Chinese solar makers. However, efforts back then to expand the tariffs so as to include Chinese solar panels made with non-Chinese solar cells were turned down, creating a loophole that China quickly exploited. (Some industry watchers, however, have suggested that SolarWorld is “manipulating U.S. trade procedure in order to prop up its own failing business.” Others argue that the “dumb” trade war could end up hurting the future of solar power.)
So in January 2014, USITC and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) launched an investigation following a renewed complaint by SolarWorld, filed on December 31, 2013, which this time targeted Chinese solar energy firms it said were exploiting the loophole by using components supplied by Taiwanese crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell makers.