Yellen says China’s rapid expansion of its green energy industry is ‘distorting global prices’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen criticized China’s increased production of solar energy, electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries, calling it unfair competition that “distorts global prices” and “hurts American businesses and workers and businesses.” and workers around the world.”


Yellen, who is planning her second trip to China as Treasury secretary, said Wednesday in Georgia that she would express to her Chinese counterparts her belief that Beijing’s increased green energy production also poses risks “to the productivity and growth of the Chinese economy.”

Senate Budget

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies during a Senate finance hearing to consider President Joe Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2025 budget request, Thursday, March 21, 2024, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

“I will urge my Chinese colleagues to take the necessary steps to address this issue.”

China is the dominant player in electric vehicle batteries and has a fast-growing automotive industry that could challenge the world’s established automakers as it globalizes. The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental group, notes that China accounted for around 60% of global electric car sales in 2023.

Yellen spoke Wednesday afternoon at Suniva, a solar cell manufacturing facility in Norcross, Georgia. According to the Treasury Department, the plant closed in 2017 largely due to cheap imports flooding the market. The reopening comes in part because of incentives from Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, which provides tax incentives for green energy production.

The company’s story is something of a warning about the effects of oversaturating markets with Chinese products — and an indicator of the state of U.S.-China economic relations, which are strained because of investment bans, espionage concerns and other problems.

China filed a complaint against the US at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday over alleged discriminatory requirements for subsidizing electric vehicles. China’s Commerce Ministry did not say what the reason for the move was.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai responded to the complaint by saying the U.S. subsidies were “contributing to a clean energy future” while China “continues to use unfair, non-market-oriented policies and practices to undermine fair competition.”

The European Union has also been concerned about the potential threat to its automotive industry and launched its own investigation into Chinese subsidies for electric vehicles last year.

“Historically, Chinese government support in industries such as steel and aluminum led to significant overinvestment and excess capacity that Chinese companies sought to export abroad at low prices,” Yellen said. “This maintained production and employment in China, but forced industry in the rest of the world to shrink.”

“These are concerns that I am increasingly hearing from government officials in developed and emerging markets, as well as from the business community around the world,” she said.


The tone of Yellen’s speech contrasts with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who met with American business leaders in Beijing on Wednesday and called for closer trade ties with the United States, even as relations steadily improved and had fallen to their lowest level in years.

Xi on Wednesday emphasized the mutually beneficial economic ties between the world’s two largest economies, despite high U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports and Washington’s accusations of undue Communist Party influence, unfair trade barriers and intellectual property theft.

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