Gore (sort of) defends Trump’s tariff decision

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, January 26, 2018

Former Vice President Al Gore said yesterday President Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on solar panels is not “an utter catastrophe.”

Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Gore deflected blame away from Trump, saying the trade barriers were prompted by the two companies that brought the case, Suniva and SolarWorld Americas.

“I don’t typically defend him,” Gore said of Trump. “I will say in this case it really did not start with him. This was a trade action brought by private companies. They chose a kind of a midpoint in the range of alternatives.”

Gore added that the case “could have been handled differently, should have been handled differently, but it’s not an utter catastrophe.” Large subsidies from China have put some companies at a disadvantage, he said.

That echoes language from the Trump administration, which cited China’s government incentives and subsidies as a reason for needing new trade barriers to revive solar manufacturing.

Gore said he disagreed with Trump’s tariff decision overall, but the comments garnered attention considering Gore’s otherwise full-throated attacks on Trump’s climate policies. Under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, Trump had the final say in the case, regardless of the company positions.

Earlier this week, Trump signed 30 percent tariffs on imported solar cells and modules into law (E&E News PM, Jan. 23). Suniva and SolarWorld say they are needed to address an unfair flood of cheap imports. Much of the rest of the solar industry says the action will spike prices and kill jobs.

“We disagree with the president’s decision and if Mr. Gore believes this won’t have detrimental effects on the solar industry we disagree with him too,” said SEIA President Abigail Ross Hopper.

As analysts predicted, the case is starting to prompt complaints at the World Trade Organization. South Korea formally filed a WTO challenge that was published today.