On Monday, in a pledge to defend businesses and workers in the U.S., President Donald Trump imposed new tariffs on imported large residential washing machines and components for solar panels.
In a prepared statement, Robert Lightizer the U.S. Trade Representative said after consulting with the bipartisan International Trade Commission and the interagency Trade Policy Committee, Trump decided increased imports of solar modules and panels and washing machines were a sufficient cause of injury to domestic manufacturers of the same.
The White House administration approved 20% tariffs on the first 1.2 million washing machines and 50% for all over and above 1.2 in the next two years. A tariff of 30% is to be imposed on components for solar panels with the rate dropping over a span of four years.
Trump’s move of placing a tariff on solar components divides the industry, with makers of panels favoring a tariff as a needed step to save subsidiary companies based in the U.S., while installers are opposed calling the tariff a job killer.
A pair of domestic manufacturers, Solar-World based in Oregon 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. Yet what is slightly strange is the majority owner of Suniva is Chinese and Solar-World is a U.S. unit of Germany based SolarWorld AG.
Prices of solar panels have dropped by over 70% since 2010, shows data from an industry trade organization. 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.
While the move was praised by some, others in the industry were against it. Representative for a sector of the solar panel industry that installs the panels criticized the tariffs, saying that making the imported components more costly would likely lessen the demand for them.
Abigail Ross Hopper the CEO and President of Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that the tariffs will lead to a loss of as many as 23,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2018.
She said that while the tariffs in this particular case will not create adequate module or cell manufacturing to meet the demand in the U.S. or keep foreign-owned SolarWorld and Suniva afloat, they will cause a crisis in a sector of the economy that has thrived, which ultimately will cost tens of thousands of American their jobs.