MX will fight tariffs on washers, solar panels

REUTERS  Natalie Behring

Germany is criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar panels. This move will most heavily affect China - a global leader in solar power production. The tariffs will be reduced to 18 percent and 45 percent in the second year, and to 16 percent and 40 percent in the third.

The move marked the first time that the USA government has ever used the so-called Section 201, an outdated tool under a rarely used Trade Act of 1974, to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions on foreign imports since 2001.

"The president is saying that we're punishing China, but what he's really doing is driving up costs for people in our community who would like to invest in solar".

Trump said that the tariffs will help USA manufacturers and positioned the decision as part of his promise to put American companies and jobs first. The administration has already chose to pull the USA out of the worldwide Paris climate agreement, rolled back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and passed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind.

But the industry's future is a little more uncertain.

U.S. officials said more trade enforcement actions would follow.

REUTERS  Brendan McDermid
REUTERS Brendan McDermid

It marks the first time in 16 years that the USA has issued safeguard measures. The 30 percent tariff is less than the 35 percent duty that the U.S. International Trade Commission recommended in October when it found that panel imports were hurting U.S. panel manufacturers.

A pair of domestic manufacturers, Solar-World based in OR and Suniva based in Georgia, who both complained about having to compete against less expensive panels made in Asia, will benefit from Monday's tariffs.

The tariffs will last for four years and gradually decrease to 15 percent after the first year.

The tariffs, while applicable to all foreign producers, are mainly targeted at China, which has become a powerful player in the solar industry as its low-cost panels have become the dominant source for USA installers. The move marks the first time in 16 years that the USA has issued such safeguard measures. For many owners of homes installing solar panels is now more affordable, but the industry's largest trade group now worries if the prices increase, the boom in installation could stop.

The move is especially important to the people of OH who have seen their Whirlpool plant lose business to South Korean companies such as Samsung and IG.

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