Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump has approved steep tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines to protect US producers, US trade officials announced Monday.
The move was quickly decried by the solar industry, which said the tariffs would create a “crisis” and cost thousands of US jobs and billions in investment without helping domestic suppliers meet rising demand.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the tariffs were imposed after an “exhaustive” review by USTR and the independent US International Trade Commission which determined US producers were “seriously injured by imports.”
The administration imposed tariffs of up to 50 percent on imports of large residential washing machines over three years, and up to 30 percent on solar panels over four years.
“The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses in this regard,” Lighthizer said in a statement.
It was just the latest trade case in which Trump has aggressively moved to curtail China’s trade might.
Chinese-made washing machine imports led to a “substantial” decline in market share for US producers, according to USTR.
– ‘Disappointment’ in the solar industry –
And imports of cheap, Chinese-made solar panels helped triple US annual solar electricity generation between 2012 and 2016. But those imports drove prices down by 60 percent, causing most US producers to cease production or declare bankruptcy, the USTR said.
The rising imports were spurred on by China’s use of state incentives, subsidies and tariffs, and manufacturers have evaded compensatory US tariffs by repeatedly shifting production to new countries, USTR said.
The US ITC investigation into solar imports was launched following complaints from US companies Suniva, a bankrupt Chinese-owned firm, and SolarWorld, owned by a German concern that declared insolvency in May.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said its members expressed “disappointment” at the decision.
The new tariffs will cause the loss of about 23,000 American jobs and the cancelation or delay of billions of dollars in solar investment, the group said in a statement.
The tariffs will not help meet US demand but “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,” SEIA President Abigail Ross Hopper said.