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Trump applied tariffs to solar panels, which could cause roughly 23,000 jobs to be lost

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President Trump announced tariffs on imported solar panels following a recommendation by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

But the tariffs — already denounced by China, Germany and Mexico — are likely to heighten tensions between the United States and its trade partners, slow the U.S. solar-installation business and raise prices for American consumers.

The president said the tariffs "benefit our consumers and we're going to create a lot of jobs."

“My administration is committed to defending American companies, and they’ve been very badly hurt from harmful import surges that threaten the livelihood of their workers,” Trump said as he signed the tariffs. “The United States will not be taken advantage of anymore.”

The solar modules will receive a 30 percent tariff for the first year with the rate declining before phasing out after four years.

The tariffs were sought last year by Suniva Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in April, and the U.S. subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld.

They said that a nearly 500 percent increase in imported solar panels over five years led to a ruinous price collapse. Nearly 30 U.S. solar-manufacturing facilities had closed in the past five years, they said, as China plotted to flood the global market with cheap products to weaken U.S. manufacturing.

The U.S. solar industry was split over the trade barriers.

Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach called tariffs "a step forward for this high-tech solar-manufacturing industry we pioneered right here in America."

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.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, SEIA , which represents installation companies, said billions of dollars of solar investment will be delayed or canceled, leading to the loss of 23,000 jobs this year.

“This decision will cause roughly 23,000 American jobs to be lost this year, including many in manufacturing, and will cancel of billions of dollars in investments in the U.S. economy," the SEIA said in a tweet.

Installation companies such as Namaste Solar in Boulder, Colo. are afraid the tariffs will drive up the cost of new systems and hurt the industries momentum.

"If those solar tariffs are high enough we could see the loss of 10s of thousands of downstream solar jobs in the name of protecting a few hundred jobs,'' Blake Jones, co-founder of Namaste Solar said.

China accused Trump of jeopardizing the multilateral trading system by taking action on complaints under U.S. law instead of through the World Trade Organization.

"The U.S. side once again abused its trade remedy measures," said a Commerce Ministry statement. "China expresses its strong dissatisfaction with this."

China leads the world in solar manufacturing and accounted for 54 percent of solar-panel installations for the U.S. last year, according to Bloomberg.

The washing-machine case dates back to a 2011 complaint by Whirlpool, which charged that South Korean competitors LG and Samsung were dumping low-priced machines in the U.S. market. To avoid duties imposed by the Commerce Department, the companies shifted production, first to China and then to Thailand and Vietnam.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, hailed the new tariffs.

“This is welcome news for the thousands of Whirlpool workers in Clyde, Ohio, whose jobs have been threatened by a surge of cheap washers,” he said. “These tariffs will help level the playing field, and show anyone who tries to cheat our trade laws that they won’t get away with it.”

But critics warned that the tariffs will drive up washing-machine prices.

“Tariffs are taxes on families,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska. “Moms and dads shopping on a budget for a new washing machine will pay for this — not big companies.”

Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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