Trump imposes tariff on imported solar cells, washing machines

President Donald Trump imposed stiff tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines Monday, aiming to protect USA manufacturers.

The 30 percent initial tariff will decrease in 5 percent increments annually over four years, with a 15 percent tariff remaining by 2022. In response, President Trump authorized new, additional safeguard tariffs of 30 percent, excluding the first 2.5 gigawatt of imported cells.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer claimed Trump's tariff decision was made in the interest of American workers. Following up on recommendations made by the U.S. International Trade Commission past year, Trump approved a strict tariff-rate quota system. Chinese companies subject to US tariffs likely would focus on those other countries. As a result of the country's policies and subsidies, China's share of global solar cell production has exploded from 7% in 2005 to 61% in 2012, according to the USTR fact sheet. The company maintains 430 megawatts of annual capacity to produce solar cells and 550 MW of capacity to manufacture solar modules.

Both companies asked for strong tariffs, a floor price and quota that they said would help them get into the black and revive the battered domestic solar manufacturing space. About half of US solar jobs are in installation, with others in manufacturing, sales, product development and other sectors.

The Solar Energy Industry Association claimed that just 2,000 of the 38,000 solar manufacturing jobs in the United States are involved in building cells and panels, meaning many solar companies in the Land of the Free are dependent on imported cells and panels to do their jobs.

Local solar panel makers also expressed worries that their exports to the United States market will be hit hard by the tariffs.

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Samsung Electronics Co. said the United States government's heavy tariffs on washing machines will be "a great loss for American consumers and workers", noting that it has hired more than 600 American workers at a new factory in SC, which began production on January 12. Though not universally agreed upon, the largest consensus was an increase in duties on solar imports.

SEIA noted that the tariffs were nowhere near as steep as what Suniva and SolarWorld requested.

The tariffs were sought by SolarWorld Americas, an OR subsidiary of a German company, and Georgia's Suniva, the majority of which is owned by a Chinese business. SolarWorld supported its petition.

"The cost of generating solar energy from rooftop panels has plummeted by more than 85 percent in less than a decade, but President Trump's action will reverse that progress". Suniva, a Georgia-based manufacturer, is under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

But U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, said Republicans need to understand that tariffs are a tax on consumers.

USTR said injury to U.S. washing machine manufacturers stems from a sharp increase in imports that began in 2012. This is not hype; this is what will happen. "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". "While we are confident that the American solar sector will remain vibrant, this is a needless drag on an important source of domestic investment and job creation".


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