March 24, 2018

Trump Slaps Steep Tariffs on Imported Washers, Solar Panels

23 January 2018, 05:19 | Virginia Santiago

The four-year tariffs will decrease 5% per year

The four-year tariffs will decrease 5% per year

The decision, which also places heavy import fines on foreign washing machines, came after an "exhaustive" review by Trump's economic advisers, according to USA trade representative Robert Lighthizer.

Pledging to defend American businesses and workers, President Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panel components and large residential washing machines on Monday.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) - the national trade association for the USA industry - and its members expressed disappointment in the decision by President Trump to impose 30 percent tariffs on imported solar cells and panels.

The Trump administration is also imposing tariffs and a quota on importing washing machines following a trade commission investigation.

Two domestic manufacturers, Georgia-based Suniva and Oregon-based Solar-World, who have complained about competing with cheaper panels produced in Asia, stand to benefit from the tariffs.

It's certainly clear that solar hasn't been as successful in recent years as it has been before, though cheap imports aren't the only factor being blamed.

Tony Clifford, chief development officer at Standard Solar, said Trump's tariff decision may slow, but will not stop the US solar industry.

However, solar installers and manufacturers of other equipment used to run solar-power systems opposed tariffs, which they said will raise their prices and hurt demand for the renewable energy. Petitioners Suniva and SolarWorld have said they can not compete with the surge of cheap imports, mostly from Chinese producers, which has caused solar panel prices to drop more than 30 percent since early 2016. According to the US Trade Representative, China, thanks to government subsidies and financing, makes 60% of the world's solar cells-up from 7% in 2005-and 71% of its solar modules (pdf, p. 3). "Instead, this misguided decision to impose tariffs on solar products will negatively impact thousands of workers who depend on solar to support their families, and it will hurt American competitiveness in the global economy".

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A number of conservative and industry-aligned groups like Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council also came out against tariffs on solar imports.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office made the recommendation to the president for the tariffs. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the costs of large solar farms may rise by less than 10 percent. On the other side is the USA solar installation industry, which has benefited from low-priced panels that have led to explosive growth in rooftop systems on homes and commercial buildings as well as massive solar farms.

Lighthizer also recently started to renegotiate a trade agreement between South Korea and the United States that he and Trump blame for increasing the USA trade deficit with South Korea since 2012.

The first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells will be exempt from the safeguard tariff in each of those four years.

South Korea's trade ministry said Tuesday it has asked the World Trade Organization to suspend concessions on USA imports, seeking to re-instate tariffs.

Many have targeted China, the United States' biggest trade partner, which past year ran a record surplus with the USA, inciting new ire from Trump.

"This is a victory for American workers and consumers alike", Fettig said.

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