Trump decides on tariffs to assist US manufacturers
President Donald Trump is approving tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines in a bid to help U.S. manufacturers.
The administration cast Monday’s decisions as part of Trump’s pledge to put American companies and jobs first.
The administration is imposing an immediate tariff of 30 percent on most imported solar modules, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years.
For large residential washing machines, tariffs will start at up to 50 percent and phase out after three years.
The U.S. solar industry is split over the issue. Two small subsidiaries of foreign companies that made solar cells in the U.S. favor tariffs, but a larger number of companies that install solar-power systems say their costs will rise and jobs will be lost.
Businesses that install solar-power systems are benefiting from a glut of cheaper panels made overseas, mostly in Asia. That has made solar power more competitive with electricity generated from coal and natural gas.
A green-technology research firm estimates that tariffs could cost up to 88,000 U.S. jobs related to installing solar-power systems.
On the other side are two U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies that argue the domestic manufacturing of solar cells and modules has been decimated by a flood of imports, mostly from Chinese companies with operations throughout Asia.
Imports of silicon photovoltaic cells, the building blocks of solar panels, soared nearly 500 percent between 2012 and 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
The U.S. Commerce Department imposed stiff anti-dumping duties on imported panels made from Chinese solar cells in 2012 and 2015. Tim Brightbill, SolarWorld Americas’ lawyer, said Chinese companies have gotten around those sanctions by assembling panels from cells produced in other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam.