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CEO DATELINE – Solar association CEO asks Trump to reject proposed tariffs

Jan. 18, 2018
By Walt Williams

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With the Trump administration reportedly preparing to levy tariffs on Chinese-made solar equipment, the head of the Solar Energy Industries Association is pleading with the president to reject the proposal, saying it could lead to thousands of U.S. job losses.

Politico recently obtained an unreleased White House document building a foundation for imposing tariffs on Chinese solar panels and other equipment imported into the U.S. Some western solar equipment manufacturers, particularly the German company SolarWorld, have long accused the Chinese government of subsidizing the country’s solar manufacturing sector and dumping panels into foreign markets at artificially low prices.

The U.S. International Trade Commission examined the issue and in October 2017 recommended a 30 percent tariff on Chinese solar modules that would decline 5 percent annually over four years, the news service Greentech Media reported. Commissioners also recommended additional tariffs on other solar products.

Still, cheap Chinese panels have led to a boom in solar installations in the U.S., to the point where the solar industry now employs more workers than any other energy sector other than oil, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In an open letter addressed to President Donald Trump, SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said implementing the commission’s proposed tariffs “will lead to the layoff of tens of thousands of workers, cause companies to stop investing in the United States and bring an American economic engine screeching to a halt.”

“Ironically, the very jobs we all want to grow, American manufacturing jobs, will retract as the number of projects are scaled back significantly,” Hopper said. “This is not hype; this is what will happen. American companies manufacture, among other things, steel and aluminum racking systems, inverters and tracking devices. Raising solar prices, as these tariffs would do, would reduce demand for those downstream products and kill manufacturing jobs.”

The Trump administration is expected to announce its decision concerning solar tariffs in coming days.