By Adam Behsudi | POLITICO
President Donald Trump took his first major action as trade enforcer-in-chief, opening the door to a host of other trade restrictions that buck the global order and give him a hammer to push his “America First” vision at the gathering of global elites in Davos, Switzerland.
The decision to slap tariffs and other trade restrictions on imports of solar panels and washing machines is being seen as a prelude to coming actions on steel and aluminum imports, as well as a wide-ranging case that aims to punish China for intellectual property abuses.
“The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
“This ill-advised solar tariff will raise electricity prices while taking jobs away from thousands of Americans. This tariff is yet another example of this administration’s backward-looking energy policy, where dirty, unpopular, and fading energy sources of the past take precedence over what the market clearly wants: clean renewable energy. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar photovoltaic installation is the fastest growing occupation in the country, yet these tariffs will stymie this growth and rob thousands of Americans of these good-paying jobs.”
President’s decision on solar tariffs is a loss for America
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – the national trade association for the U.S. industry – and its members expressed disappointment in the decision by President Trump to impose 30 percent tariffs on imported solar cells and panels.
The decision effectively will cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year, including many in manufacturing, and it will result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments.
“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s President and CEO.
The impact of the decision will be far-reaching across all sectors of the solar economy, SEIA members said.
“It boggles my mind that this president – any president, really – would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer, Standard Solar. “This decision is misguided and denies the reality that bankrupt foreign companies will be the beneficiaries of an American taxpayer bailout.”
SEIA estimates that a tariff at this level will eliminate, not add to, American manufacturing jobs. There were 38,000 jobs in solar manufacturing in the U.S. at the end of 2016, and all but 2,000 made something other than cells and panels, the subject of this case. Those 36,000 Americans manufactured metal racking systems, high-tech inverters, machines that improved solar panel output by tracking the sun and other electrical products.
“There’s no doubt this decision will hurt U.S. manufacturing, not help it,” said Bill Vietas, president of RBI Solar in Cincinnati. “The U.S. solar manufacturing sector has been growing as our industry has surged over the past five years. Government tariffs will increase the cost of solar and depress demand, which will reduce the orders we’re getting and cost manufacturing workers their jobs.”
“This is a bad day for the U.S.,” said Costa Nicolaou, president and CEO of PanelClaw, an American racking company. “What’s most disappointing is that the president sided with two foreign-owned companies and didn’t listen to Americans from across the country and political spectrum who understood tariffs will cause great economic pain for so many families in the solar sector.”
While the case will undoubtedly have negative effects on the industry, SEIA pointed out that the tariffs were nowhere near as bad as what Suniva and SolarWorld requested. SEIA also looks forward to working with interested parties to achieve a positive outcome in the existing antidumping and countervailing duty cases.
“While we believe the decision will be significantly harmful to our industry and the economy, we appreciate that the president and the administration listened to our arguments,” Hopper said. “Our industry will emerge from this. The case for solar energy is just too strong to be held down for long, but the severe near-term impacts of these tariffs are unfortunate and avoidable.”