Trump OKs safeguard tariffs on imported washers

Trump slaps big tariffs on imported solar panels in major escalation of a trade fight with China

Thin-film solar panels (like those manufactured by First Solar and Solar Frontier) were not expected to be affected by the tariffs, but were not officially confirmed by Lighthizer.

For imported washing machines, the president approved a combined tariff and quota for the next three years.

Trump's solar trade decision comes slightly ahead of a January 26 deadline and after almost a year of heated campaigns from the two co-petitioners and major case opponent, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The obscure Section 201 mechanism is unlike the previous SolarWorld-led US trade actions against Chinese and Taiwanese solar imports, as it does not require a finding of unfair trade practices and applies globally, rather than to one specific country, unless a free-trade partner is exempted.

A study by GTM Research computes that a 30 percent tariff will raise solar costs roughly 10 to 15 cents per watt, and could reduce utility-scale solar installations by 9 percent, according to Utility Dive, an industry publication. The tariffs apply to all imported photovoltaic cells and modules, which are the core elements of solar panels.

According to sources, this move taken by the Indian regulators, is among the latest in a series of worldwide trade disputes related to the manufacturing & import of solar panels.

"In 2011, [the U.S. Department of Commerce] found that China had subsidized its producers, and that those producers were selling their goods in the United States for less than their fair market value, all to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers", Robert Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), said in a statement today.

The intellectual property, washer and solar panel probes were done under a 1974 trade law that has been seldom invoked since the World Trade Organization was launched in 1995. The ITC also recommended that Canada, Singapore, Australia, and a number of other USA free-trade partner countries be excluded from any global trade actions. "The solar industry has come through worse policy decisions and will come through this one, too".

Trump opted for the most punitive recommendation by ITC judges for residential washers. Suniva is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and Solarworld's German parent company has filed for insolvency. But by the time penalties were levied, both had moved production to China. "The Solar Century is here, and not even unfair tariffs will stand in its way".

Some U.S. panel makers sought the tariff declaration.

"This announcement caps almost a decade of litigation and will result in new manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee", Whirlpool Chairman Jeff M. Fettig said in a statement.

"While I would have preferred to see the Trump Administration not impose any sanctions on foreign module manufacturers, which would have preserved the solar industry in its current form, the tariffs he made a decision to impose may slow, but will not stop the US solar industry", said Tony Clifford, chief development officer, Standard Solar.

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