Trump announces new solar tariffs

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, June 18, 2018

President Trump floated new tariffs on solar imports Friday, sparking outrage from the industry’s lead trade group.

The White House announced $50 billion worth of tariffs on a variety of Chinese imports this morning, causing angry retaliation from the Asian country (Greenwire, June 15). Nuclear reactors, lithium-ion battery components, vehicles and agriculture equipment all are slated for higher U.S. import fees.

Buried in a list of products targeted for new 25 percent tariffs were “diodes for semiconductor devices,” which include solar cells and modules.

That means tariffs on solar cells and panels from China could increase by an additional 25 percent — on top of tariffs Trump slapped on the global solar industry in January. The new duties also would be on top of separate existing tariffs for Chinese imports enacted in 2012 and 2014.

“Given the relatively small portion of cells and panels imported to the U.S. from China now due to the antidumping, countervailing, and safeguard duties imposed on Chinese products, it is difficult to assess the effect additional duties would have on the U.S. market. Regardless, the [Solar Energy Industries Association] views this as a negative development as it could cause harm to the U.S. market,” SEIA President Abby Hopper wrote in a note to members today.

SEIA has projected that tariffs Trump imposed in January on the global industry could lead to more than 20,000 lost jobs this year, although Trump supporters say that’s overblown. At the time, Trump announced 30 percent fees on solar imports that would decline over four years (Greenwire, Jan. 22).

The new solar tariffs are not a done deal. They were included in a list of targeted products set to undergo a public notice and comment process before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative makes a final determination.

A separate list of 818 products released by Trump today will be hit with 25 percent tariffs next month.

M.J. Shiao, an analyst at GTM Research, noted that some of the other products slated for tariffs, including “DC generators,” could incorporate solar equipment. However, China is not the chief importer of solar panels, he said.

According to SEIA, about 11 percent of U.S. imported cells and panels by value come from China.

This morning, the White House said trade between the U.S. and China “has been very unfair, for a very long time.”

China’s commerce ministry released a statement saying that it would implement immediate retaliatory fees on agriculture, seafood and automobiles. Additional tariffs on the energy sector would be announced later, it said.

“This [U.S.] move is not only damaging bilateral interests but also undermining the world trade order,” the ministry said.

Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.