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U.S. in $1.6 billion surplus in clean energy trade with China

Staff writer |
The United States achieved a $1.6 billion trade surplus in clean energy trade with China in 2011, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Solar energy product exports are the largest component of U.S.-China clean energy trade for both countries. Combined, companies of the two nations traded more than $6.5 billion worth of products and services in 2011. Finished solar modules account for 95& of the solar products exported by China to the U.S. China also exports $151 million worth of solar cells to the United States. Both of these products reflect China’s strengths in mass assembly and high-volume manufacturing.

But China’s strength in production of solar modules is matched on the U.S. side by leadership in high-tech goods and services. The trading strength of the United States in this sector derives from competitive advantages in producing high-value inputs (polysilicon and wafers, both for making photovoltaic cells), materials used in making photovoltaic modules, and the capital equipment and systems necessary in solar factories.

U.S. companies traded more than $3.7 billion worth of goods and service in the solar photovoltaic subsector, while Chinese companies exported $2.8 billion worth of products to the U.S. On a net basis, the United States enjoyed a $913 million surplus in the solar sector.

The U.S. wind industry excels in relatively high-margin specialty materials, with U.S. exports to China totaling $534.9 million. China’s largest trade contributors are wind turbine towers and turbine rotors manufactured under a U.S.-China joint venture. China’s wind energy exports to the United States total $388.7 million. Overall, U.S. wind energy firms have a net trade surplus of just over $146 million.

Trade in energy smart technology constitutes the second-largest component in U.S.-China trade flows. Overall, more than $1.1 billion worth of equipment is traded. China leads in smart metering and lithium-ion batteries, with trade to the U.S. valued at more than $120 million. China also exports $133 million worth of LED products.

At the same time, U.S. companies exported more than $800 million worth of LED capital equipment to China while importing none. The United States also traded $29 million worth of lithium-ion batteries in 2011. In total, the United States had a net trade surplus of $571 million in the energy smart technology sector in 2011.

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