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Originally published Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 3:56 PM

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Editorial: End the trade spat over silicon for solar panels

The countervailing duties imposed on the solar-panel and polysilicon industries should end.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE Obama administration should quickly settle the trade war in solar panels between the United States and China.

REC Silicon, a manufacturer in Moses Lake, his been hit with a 57 percent Chinese tariff, according to a Times business story. The company is the world’s No. 5 producer of polysilicon for solar panels. It has been selling 80 percent of its output to China, the world’s No. 1 producer of panels.

China’s tariff could shut the state-of-the-art Moses Lake plant down, ending the jobs of 500 employees.

REC Silicon’s plant gives the state an interest in the success of China’s solar-panel industry. Oregon, unfortunately, has a different interest. SolarWorld USA, the largest U.S. producer of solar panels, is based in Hillsboro. Last year, to help SolarWorld survive competition from China, the U.S. government imposed countervailing duties of 30 to 35 percent on Chinese panels, which is why China now slaps a punitive tariff on REC Silicon.

You punish us, we punish you.

Complicating the picture is that SolarWorld is a German company and REC Silicon is Norwegian. So the U.S.-China spat is really an Oregon-Washington fight except that it’s between Germans and Norwegians.

It’s a global world. It might also become more of a solar-powered world if governments — America’s and China’s — would stop trying to prop up prices and allow them to fall.

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