China was the United States’ number one source of and destination for PV products in 2010. The U.S. imported approximately $1.4 billion worth of PV products from China, while exporting between $1.7 billion and $2.0 billion. This resulted in a positive trade balance with China with net exports of $247 million to $540 million.
The U.S.-China trade balance was significantly influenced by the flows of polysilicon, solar modules and capital equipment. Polysilicon ($873 million) and capital equipment (low: $708 million; high: $1,000 million) were the U.S.’s main exports. The U.S. has a strong domestic polysilicon manufacturing base but very few domestic wafer producers. As China supports more extensive wafer manufacturing operations, it is a key market for U.S. polysilicon exports. The U.S. also exported considerably more capital equipment than it imported: it leads the world in solar factory equipment manufacturing, but has insufficient demand for this equipment due to its relatively small PV manufacturing industry. Solar modules were the main import from China into the United States at $1.154 million, demonstrating the presence of a particularly strong domestic end-market.