The president plans to impose tariffs on solar panel imports, starting at 30 percent in the first year and declining over time, the U.S. trade representative said this afternoon.
The long-awaited decision would affect crystalline silicon photovoltaic components. Two solar manufacturers, Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas, requested the tariffs to address what they see as a serious injury of imported cheap cells and modules, primarily from Asian-owned companies.
Under the plan accepted by President Trump, modules would have a 30 percent tariff in year one, 25 percent in year two, 20 percent in year three and 15 percent in year four.
The numbers are lower than some recommendations last year from members of the U.S. International Trade Commission (E&E News PM, Oct. 31, 2017). Solar cells would follow the same phase-down but would be exempt entirely from tariffs for the first 2.5 gigawatts of imports.
"The ITC found that U.S. producers had been seriously injured by imports and made several recommendations to the president," said Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
"Upon receiving these recommendations, my staff and I conducted an exhaustive process which included opportunities to brief in person and through public comments, public hearings and meetings with senior representatives."
Lighthizer said, "Based on this information, the Trade Policy Committee developed recommendations, which the president has accepted."
He added the administration would engage in discussions among interested parties to possibly reach a "positive resolution" of separate solar duties currently imposed on Chinese solar products.
Tariffs are opposed by most of the solar industry, environmentalists and conservative think tanks that say trade barriers will thwart the industry's growth and kill jobs for little gain in manufacturing.
"More good-paying jobs will be jeopardized by today's decision than could possibly be saved by bailing out the bankrupt companies that petitioned for protection," said Clark Packard, trade policy counsel for the R Street Institute.