You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Biden faces calls to investigate links between Chinese spy balloon and illegal trade practices

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 2/16/2023 Katherine Doyle
© Provided by Washington Examiner

EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) are demanding an investigation into whether Chinese solar companies under investigation for illegally circumventing U.S. trade law helped power a Chinese surveillance balloon before it was shot down, according to a letter sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that was obtained by the Washington Examiner.

In the letter, Scott and Posey argued that an emergency rule intended to quell a nervous solar industry could be shielding companies linked to Beijing’s spy balloon fleet. The lawmakers also asked whether the Biden administration would take action against Chinese panel manufacturers violating U.S. trade laws intended to level the playing field for American workers.

“Not only is the Biden administration protecting Chinese solar companies and allowing them to continue illegal trade activity without consequence, but the administration is also quite possibly protecting the very same companies providing solar panels that are powering Chinese spy balloons,” Scott and Posey write.


Scott and Posey said the event raises major questions about whether the administration’s solar policy is undermining national security “by protecting Chinese solar manufacturers that are not only illegally violating U.S. trade law, but also advancing the surveillance activities of the Chinese military and intelligence agencies.”

The Biden administration confirmed in late January that a Chinese spy balloon was traversing the United States before it was downed by a heat-seeking missile from an F-22 fighter jet on Feb. 4, sending its payload tumbling into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.

According to a State Department official, the Chinese balloon that traveled over the U.S. had antennas and solar panels large enough to power “multiple active intelligence collection sensors.”

While China has claimed the balloon was designed to conduct meteorological research, the U.S. has rejected the assertion. President Joe Biden justified the weeklong wait to shoot down the object as part of an effort to collect intelligence on the object, with the administration still working to collect the wreckage.

In the letter, Scott and Posey ask if the administration has determined whether the panels that helped operate the balloon were manufactured by a company with known trade violations and whether the Pentagon has panels in use by the same company.

The episode has stirred questions about Beijing’s surveillance programs and Washington’s willingness to respond to even the most visible incursions.

Now, Scott and Posey are urging the Biden administration to connect the dots between China’s trade violations made possibly by the government’s use of industrial subsidies and its aerial spy program.

The push to maintain U.S. tariffs on solar panels linked to China has faced opposition from a large segment of the solar industry, including developers who rely on imported cells and modules to assemble their projects at scale. Industry lobby groups have argued that even a possibility of tariffs puts Biden’s climate goals in jeopardy.

U.S. manufacturers have accused Biden of meddling in the Commerce Department’s investigation with the emergency declaration instead of allowing the decision to play out.

In their letter, Scott and Posey said Biden’s rule “effectively neutralizes” the Commerce Department’s investigation. A preliminary report late last year said solar imports from several Asian countries were skirting U.S. tariffs on China.

“For decades, Democrat and Republican administrations alike have refused to wade into the Department of Commerce’s independent fact-finding and reasoned decision-making,” Scott and Posey write. “Instead of supporting robust enforcement of U.S. trade laws, the emergency declaration gives Chinese manufacturers a free pass.”

Bipartisan lawmakers have introduced legislation to rescind the Commerce Department rule, known as the Solar Emergency Declaration, which allows Chinese-owned and other solar manufacturers to circumvent U.S. tariffs by routing the products through a third country. Its critics argue that it fails to stop trade violations.


Under Biden, who took office vowing to boost American manufacturing and jobs, solar companies have pushed to close loopholes that allow China to circumvent trade rules, hoping their efforts would align with the president’s worker and green energy goals.

While manufacturing is a small part of the U.S. solar industry, lawmakers have pushed for bringing the solar supply chain home, arguing that Washington should not forfeit renewable energy independence at the expense of short-term political ambitions. Solar tariffs also divided the Trump administration.

U.S. manufacturers have faced considerable hurdles as pressure weighs on the administration to support a swift green transition, even as the issue surfaced in political battlegrounds last year.


Washington Examiner Videos

Tags: China, News, Biden Administration, Intelligence, Energy

Original Author: Katherine Doyle

Original Location: Biden faces calls to investigate links between Chinese spy balloon and illegal trade practices


More from Washington Examiner

Washington Examiner
Washington Examiner
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon