China’s solar, EV surplus could be dumped on global markets

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies during a hearing before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 21, 2024 in Washington, DC. 

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday warned that China is treating the global economy as a dumping ground for its cheaper clean energy products, depressing market prices and squeezing green manufacturing in the U.S.

“I am concerned about global spillovers from the excess capacity that we are seeing in China,” Yellen said during a speech at a Georgia solar company called Suniva. “China’s overcapacity distorts global prices and production patterns and hurts American firms and workers, as well as firms and workers around the world.”

China has a surplus of solar power, electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries that it can ship out to other countries at cheaper prices. That makes it difficult for the more adolescent green manufacturing industries of the U.S. and elsewhere to compete.

Yellen said she intends to put pressure on Chinese officials about these trade practices during her upcoming visit to China.

“I plan to make it a key issue in discussions during my next trip there,” she said. “I will press my Chinese counterparts to take necessary steps to address this issue.”

The secretary’s concerns come as the White House tries to build a burgeoning clean energy industry domestically with investments from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, along with other legislation like the CHIPS and Science Act.

Yellen has regularly touted the gains from these investments, including at another recent speech where she doubled down on the electric vehicle “boom” spurred by the IRA.

But those investments are playing catch-up with China’s government.

“The Biden Administration also recognizes that these investments are new,” Yellen said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, China has been pouring billions into clean energy for years, outpacing the rest of the world in the energy transition.

Yellen added that the more China’s clean energy glut interferes with global market prices, the worse off supply chains for these energy sectors will be.

“President Biden is committed to doing what we can to protect our industries from unfair competition,” Yellen said.

 The Chinese Embassy in Washington denied the notion that there is an excess of Chinese clean energy products.

Yellen’s comments highlight ongoing U.S.-China trade tension even as the two countries try to steady relations.

Read more CNBC politics coverage

President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November as an olive-branch effort to break the ice after years of tension, marked in part by a tariff war launched by former President Donald Trump.

Trump has floated reinstating significant tariff levels on Chinese products if he wins a second presidential term.

In the time since the Biden-Xi meeting, strengthening U.S.-China relations has proven a…

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