WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump imposed new tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines Tuesday, saying he was levying the steep duties to “protect American jobs and American workers.”
The administration is imposing an immediate tariff of 30 percent on most imported solar modules, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years.
For large residential washing machines, tariffs will start at up to 50 percent and phase out after three years.
The fees are meant to curb the import of cheap products from countries such as South Korea, Mexico, and China, which “dominates the global supply chain,” a press release from the U.S. Trade Representative says.
The decision gratifies some American businesses, while shaking up the solar industry.
Trump made the decision after of the United States International Trade Commission reported American businesses said they were most injured financially by the importation of large residential washing machines and solar cells.
“These cases were filed by American businesses and thoroughly litigated at the International Trade Commission over a period of several months,” said United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthize, who announced the new policy.
“Based on this information, the Trade Policy Committee developed recommendations, which the President has accepted,” Lighthize continued. “The President’s action makes clear again that the Trump Administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard.”
But some groups see the president’s decision as controlling and disrupting the American solar industry.
“A lot of people say government shouldn’t be choosing winners and losers… It’s a threat to the growth of the solar market and jobs, particularly in the southeast,” Bryan Jacob, solar program director at Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said during an interview with Courthouse News.
SACE sees the president’s decision as a manipulation of the solar market, and will increase the cost of solar and slow growth in one of “the most vibrant segments” in the American economy.
Although SACE condemns the tariff, the group says the solar market is strong and expects growth to continue.
“There was a time when the tariffs proposed were higher than what he [Trump] announced,” continued Jacob. “This is a resilient industry. This will slow the growth that we’ve been seeing but it’s not going to derail solar.”
The national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, Solar Energy Industries Association, says the decision will cost 23,000 American jobs this year, many in manufacturing.
“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they 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,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s President and CEO, in a press release.
It will also cause delays and cancellations in billions of dollars’ worth of solar investments, the group says.
“It boggles my mind that this president – any president, really – would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer of Standard Solar, in a press release.
Clifford believes the decision is “misguided” and “denies the reality that bankrupt foreign companies will be the beneficiaries of an American taxpayer bailout.”
Meanwhile, Whirlpool Corporation, a U.S. washing machine manufacturer, supports Trump’s decision and added 200 new full-time positions at Whirlpool’s Ohio plant because the company expects increased demand.
“This is a victory for American workers and consumers alike,” said Whirlpool Corporation Chairman Jeff Fettig. “By enforcing our existing trade laws, President Trump has ensured American workers will compete on a level playing field with their foreign counterparts, enabled new manufacturing jobs here in America and will usher in a new era of innovation for consumers everywhere.”